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The Eye in the Sky

By The Drum, Administrator

November 3, 2005 | 9 min read

Flights of fancy

I am standing inside the Business Aviation Centre at Glasgow Airport at 7.20am awaiting a flight in the ‘Eye in the Sky’ with Radio Clyde traffic reporter Sharon Oakley, or Showbiz Shaz as she is more affectionately known. I’m not actually feeling particularly ‘showbiz’ myself this morning. I think it’s the driving rain, the howling wind, the black clouds and the prospect of being 11,000ft up in the air in what is tantamount to a Sinclair C5 with wings that is making me feel rather faint. Well, that and the fact that I would rather nail my eyelids to a cactus than get onto an aeroplane.

At 7.30am Sharon arrives and quickly tries to put me at my ease as she says that the conditions are not actually too bad.

She then introduces me to our pilot, Hans as we make our way outside to the ‘Eye in the Sky’, which is actually a Cessna 310 twin-engine six-seater aeroplane and not, as many still think, a helicopter. That was traded in in 1998. Bang on 7.45am we tear down the runway and climb sharply into the cloudy sky as Sharon prepares to make her first live broadcast to the drivers below on the M8.

We level out at around 11,500ft and Hans turns round and gives me a thumbs up as we head over the Glasgow Science Centre. I give Hans a hearty thumbs-up back and realise that I am no longer ‘absolutely terrified’. My subconscious has down-graded my fear level to ‘mildly concerned’.

Hans tips the Cessna sharply to the left and then the right so that Sharon can get a better view of the Clydeside Expressway. It looks pretty busy down there now, so drivers should try and avoid it – preferably for the next 30 years if possible.

Sharon then spots a potential problem on a dual carriageway over to her right and directs Hans in that direction. He banks very very sharply to the right and we see a tailback on the M74. At least I think it’s the M74. I have already lost my bearings.

As the plane whips around in the sky Sharon is constantly taking notes and looking at the ground below, eager to spot any potential problem areas so she can relay them back to the studio.

In a matter of (120) seconds we are back over the city centre. I am amazed at just how quickly you can get from East Kilbride to the city centre. “I have actually lost all my perspective of how long it takes to drive from one side of the city to the other because of doing this job,” says Sharon.

She’s back on air now reporting on the traffic on the Kingston Bridge. We spend the remainder of the flight over the city centre until Sharon spots a problem and Hans banks sharply to the right so she can report on a broken down bus on the M77.

When she comes off-air she points her thumb down to Hans, which I take to mean we are about to make a schedule and controlled landing at Glasgow Airport. Hans turns and asks if I have my seat belt on.

As I clamber out of The Eye in the Sky and back onto terra firma I resist the temptation to kiss the ground Pope John Paul style, but nevertheless I am slightly relived it is over. For me, that is. Tomorrow Sharon will be up again, flying over Glasgow and west central Scotland, helping to keep the traffic moving.

Up Up and Away

A bookie would, perhaps, have given you odds of a million to one that one day somebody will drive a lorry leaking lard along the M74 during a morning rush hour, instantly turning the northbound carriageway into a 25-mile long oil slick. Well, last Tuesday morning it actually happened and chaos ensued as cars slid off the road resulting in a 25-mile stretch of the M74 grinding to a shuddering halt.

Hundreds of the motorists will, no doubt, have bought their stranded vehicles from car dealer Arnold Clark and, ironically, it was to Arnold Clark that many irate motorists turned to on Tuesday morning to find out what the hell was going on.

Arnold Clark has sponsored Radio Clyde’s Eye in the Sky traffic reports for the last five years, taking over the sponsorship package from The Link, but it is at times like last Tuesday morning that the Eye in the Sky really comes into its own as the Cessna 310 flew over the mayhem below and traffic reporter Sharon Oakley was able to give motorists the latest information from 11,000 feet above them.

Clyde has long been dedicated to keeping its listeners moving with its Eye in the Sky first taking flight in April 1985. In fact, Clyde is now the only Scottish radio station that continues to offer this bird’s eye traffic service to its listeners. The station’s traffic team is headed up by experienced traffic and travel correspondent Elaine Berry and also includes traffic reporters Sharon Oakley and Julie Boyle, who are all on hand throughout the day to keep motorists moving.

With Glasgow being the only UK city to have a motorway running right through the heart of the city, it perhaps goes without saying that as motorway traffic increases so will the problems for Glasgow motorists in the future. This is one of the reasons that marketing chiefs at Arnold Clark were keen to take over the sponsorship of the Eye in the Sky, as Craig Scott, after sales marketing co-ordinator at Arnold Clark, explains: “We took up the opportunity for a number of reasons. Obviously we sell a lot of cars in west central Scotland and we want to help keep our drivers on the road today and in the future, so this opportunity seemed like a natural fit for us. We want people to know that with Arnold Clark you not only get a good deal on a car but also the most accurate and up to date travel information that will keep you moving. Using this sponsorship makes that a very consistent message as people that listen to Radio Clyde are hearing it regularly during their drive to and from work.

“On days like last Tuesday, when the congestion was particularly bad, Clyde will do more updates than usual to keep drivers informed of what is going on, so we do benefit to a degree from that.”

Since that first flight some 20 years ago, the ‘Eye’ has become a very familiar dot on the Glasgow horizon and many brands - including Irn-Bru, BP, Maxwell House, Vodafone, The Link and Arnold Clark - have been keen to capitalise on its recognition. So, what does Arnold Clark actually get from supporting the Eye in the Sky?

Well, firstly the sponsorship deal takes the Arnold Clark brand directly to some 835,000 Clyde 1 and Clyde 2 listeners every week, with Clyde 1’s breakfast show presenter George Bowie pulling in 341,000 listeners per week and Clyde 1 drive-time presenter Gina McKie bringing in 277,000 each week. On Clyde 2 Mike Riddoch in the morning gets 113,000 listeners, while Tom Ferrie at drive gets 104,000 listeners.

“We get a lot from this particular sponsorship deal,” says Scott. “We get a lot of on-air coverage during the breakfast shows and during drive-time on both Clyde 1 and Clyde 2. The whole thing is now branded ‘The Arnold Clark Eye in the Sky’ so we have got total exclusivity on Clyde’s traffic and travel.

“We have a specified number of broadcasts from the ‘Eye’ that the presenters link into from their programmes and we also have three pre-recorded tags which they play during their show. The tags are also there in the event that the plane cannot go up due to bad weather conditions.”

Scott also says that the flexibility of a radio sponsorship campaign such as this allows them to be particularly in their marketing. He adds: “This deal also allows us to use the on-air branding to promote Arnold Clark’s other services, events and promotions. For instance we can adjust the on-air tagline to push the rental side of the business if we want to.

“We also get a number of flights as part of the deal. We can use these in a number of ways from rewarding regular customers to competition prizes and even as staff incentives. We recently had a competition where 20 people stood the chance to win a car. The 19 that didn’t win were given a flight in the Arnold Clark Eye in the Sky and seemed more pleased to get that than they would the car. It is something unique and something people cannot go out and buy in a shop so that is all good for the Arnold Clark brand.”

Obviously, the ‘Eye’ sponsorship makes up just a small percentage of Arnold Clark’s overall marketing mix, but Scott is convinced that it remains one of the most important aspects.

He says: “Obviously we do a lot of press advertising and we also do lots of radio advertising to run alongside the sponsorship of the Eye in the Sky. We also do direct mail and television. The actual effectiveness of the Eye in the Sky sponsorship is pretty difficult to measure accurately because you kind of throw it open to the masses, so to speak. But I think we are all convinced of the value to the Arnold Clark brand of the association with the Eye in the Sky. We have had nothing but positive feedback from this sponsorship initiative and we will, in the future, look at other opportunities like this in areas where we have a high concentration of garages.”

So, if you are a radio station with a few Arnold Clark garages near you it might be worth giving Craig a call. It might also be worth laying a bet that one day a man will drive along the M8 leaking Golden Syrup for 25 miles. You’ll get great odds and it’s bound to happen one day.

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