All Swedish households who have a TV receiver in their homes are required to have a TV licence. Radiotjänst is the government’s organisation responsible for the collection of these fees.

All Swedish households who have a TV receiver in their homes are required to have a TV licence. Radiotjänst is the government’s organisation responsible for the collection of these fees. Once registered, only 0.1% of the 3.5 million households fail to pay. However, 10% fail to register. So the issue is not about payment, it is more about encouraging people to see the social value of registration. The traditional approach has been to use advertising messages that are based on frightening people into registering and paying. Campaigns focused on how bad it is NOT to pay and the problems that arise through non-payment of the TV licence fee. The hope was that these fear appeals might prey on people’s conscience or scare people into registering their TV receivers and paying their dues. For example, Radiotjänst ran a campaign where a little child said that ‘the ones who do not pay should get a snail on their eye’. These fear appeals certainly helped to assert their authority, but were not very pleasant, were socially unacceptable and they were not particularly effective. ‘We had a fragmented communication and message strategy. There were many different messages, that changed between campaigns, and which were communicated through different media. This tended to create a very fuzzy, unfocused image. In some campaigns the focus was on the legislation, in others on the benefits for the viewers, and so on. Our main objective was to create a strong and clear communication platform. We had to integrate our marketing communication,’ says Per Leander,director of communications, Radiotjänst. Indeed, the overall image of Radiotjänst deteriorated to the point where many young people considered it stupid to pay the TV licence fee at all. As a result Radiotjänst had problems reaching the young urban population with these traditional messages. The question therefore was how to reach these disaffected and even alienated groups and encourage them to register. Rather than attack and threaten audiences through the use of alarming appeals, Radiotjänst wanted to embrace and involve them. They wanted to make registering and paying for a TV licence socially acceptable and a worthwhile activity. To do this they knew they had to change the message as the current appeals were not effective, and were even working against the cause. Radiotjänst were also conscious that their concentration on television advertising was not the best use of media. Developing ads that interrupted viewing, and which intrude upon people’s time, was counterproductive. A logical outcome was for people to say to them selves, why should I pay for a licence when my leisure time is affected in a negative way? Anyway, the company knew that many young people use media simultaneously, and for them television is not a primary medium. So, in addition to changing the message, Radiotjänst had to find other media to convey the message and create a new ‘meaning’ about paying a TV licence. A more contemporary media mix was necessary to reach their target audiences. Radiotjänst had experimented with some of the new digital technologies, and wanted to harness the growth of social media. They saw viral marketing and social networks as important elements of the new strategy.

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