Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Prepare to Meet Jack

The countdown is on... The clock is ticking... It's not long now... The wait is finally over... T minus 10 seconds to launch... Prepare for takeoff... (Insert your own cliché here!)

The first JACK-FM outside North America is launching this week in the most English of English cities... Oxford! How will one of the biggest format success stories in the last few years from the US translate the UK?

Well - we know that it will be different for a start. The North American JACK's are mostly music intensive, no-DJ environments. In the UK, JACK-FM will have a good old 'Breakfast Show' and a 'Drivetime' moment, both hosted by real people... and not just the 'voice of Jack'. (Trevor Marshall, who is one of the hosts of mornings is an excellent broadcaster and will bring a certain class to the show without a doubt).

But 'JACK-FM Oxfordshire' will be different in the way that it approaches the challenge that many commercial radio stations in the UK have, that is how to break the pattern of predictability and cycle of monotony that tightly formatted stations bring?

The 'extreme variety' position that JACK has grown famous for in many US and Canadian markets will now be unleashed on the good folk of Oxfordshire. We can expect car crash segues from artists as varied as The Police, Bananrama, Leo Sayer, Carl Douglas, Roxette, Depeche Mode, Steely Dan and David Bowie.

Hang on a minute... that sounds like something the BBC would do!

And that's the point. I believe that JACK-FM will offer a viable alternative to Radio 2 and BBC Radio Oxford and provide a section of older adults, mainly 40+, with a "commercial radio station that doesn't sound like a commercial radio station". I'm sure that Fox FM (the heritage commercial station in the market) will not be welcoming this new entrant to the rather uncompetitive Oxfordshire marketplace, as inevitably JACK will pull from some of the older end that's been holding up their cume for all those years. But even the guys at Fox should welcome a station that will challenge the BBC in a smarter way.

A morning show that will have a 50/50 speech and music balance and packed with local content will inevitably appeal to some of BBC Oxford's 100,000 weekly listeners, and hourly news bulletins will satisfy the demand for information throughout the day.

The Year 1 audience projections are around a 55,000 Reach with a Market Share 5.4%. I'm confident they can achieve that given the strength of the proposition and format, the charisma of the brand, and the expertise of the operators.

Good luck Jack!

And to get you all in the mood, here's a fun TV spot from JACK-FM in Toronto...

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Name That Show

Congratulations to Mads Vangsø and the team at client station, Radio 100FM in Denmark, who this week successfully launched their brand new morning show.

It's called "Farvel seng – jeg elsker dig!". For those of you who don't speak fluent Danish... let me translate! The new show is called "Goodbye Bed - I Love You!"

With a title like that, you know you're in for something a little bit different!!

The issue of show names comes up from time to time. Should you name all your shows or only some of them... or none at all? Personally, naming all of your shows I think is a step too far, but giving your morning show a strong identity isn't a bad thing. Creating a sub-brand that listeners associate with your station is a nice shorthand for them, and can help define the show before a potential listener even hears it.

"The Rehab" - Sunday morning's on Kiss 100 London... you kinda know you're going to get chill out tunes! 'The Morning After' which is Kerrang! Radio's new morning show has some attitude to it... and ties in well with their late show that is appropriately titled "The Night Before"!

And while we're on the subject of show name... can we please impose a worldwide ban on "The Morning Crew" or "Dave and The Morning Crew"! It's so dated!

A 'crew' of people isn't something I would really want to wake up with, unless I was working on a ship or travelling on the Space Shuttle.

"Hi - you wanna come round and hang out with The Crew?"

"Where are calling from.... 1987?"

OK - I'll stop now. You get the point.

Jack Off!

A nice bit of guerrilla marketing by, the soon to be launched, Jack FM Oxford, as they gatecrashed Fox FM's 18th Birthday Party handing out their own birthday card to party goers.

This type of activity is perfect for the cheeky and irreverent style that I'm sure Jack FM will bring to Oxford.

There's probably a whole book to write on great competitive things that rival stations have done to each other. A nice one that sticks in my mind is when Bam Bam, who was working at Kiss 100 at the time, bought a classic fire engine, complete with turntable ladder... just so he could drive it to Leicester Square... extend the ladder... and put a Kiss Sticker on the 3rd floor window where the Capital studio was. Cheeky, funny, perfect for that show and that station at the time.

He now broadcasts inside that very studio that he 'stickered' all those years ago. Funny how things work out!

Anyway - We should all look forward to seeing some nice marketing ideas coming out of Jack FM once it has launched. The countdown is on to Thursday 18th October at 1:06pm. Well they are on 106FM... so what did you expect!

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Witch Hunt?

I have a confession to make.

In 1992, whilst doing the evening show on Christmas Eve on Radio City in Liverpool, I put a caller to air claiming it was Santa Claus. It wasn't. It was my Brother in Law... Phil, doing a rather bad impression of an old man with a white beard, carrying lots of presents.

If I was at the BBC right now, I might well have a taxi on its way to take me home... forever!

The "fake callers" scandal goes on.. and on... and on! Today, another incident has come to light! According to the BBC...

"A pre-recorded section of Radio 1's Jo Whiley Show on April 20, 2006 featured a phone competition in which a member of BBC staff posed as a caller from the audience. The incident came to light following the recent publication of further editorial breaches. A number of staff members have been disciplined. We would like to make clear that Jo Whiley was unaware that the caller was not a genuine member of the public. The BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee has been informed of this today."

Oh dear. How many more of these are going to rear their heads? I'm sure there are quite a few producers / production assistants who are having sleepless nights at the moment. Fess up and do the right thing, and you might get the "Leona McCambridge" treatment!

She was the unfortunate producer who was at the centre of one of the original "fake caller" scandal on BBC 6Music, having admitted to using production staff to pose as a caller. 6Music Director of Programmes, Ric Blaxill, fell on his sword shortly after Leona was given her marching orders.

So where does this leave us? Is the relationship between a radio station and a listener irrevocably damaged... regardless of station? Does it affect the whole industry in the UK?

One of the real issues is the fine line between creating "radio theatre" and conning the audience. It's probably OK to say "I'm opening the golden envelope now..." when you haven't got an envelope in the studio, let alone a gold one! But asking people to call in without a hope in hell of getting on the air, coz the show's pre-recorded is probably pushing it.

So where is the line?

If you record a session on a Friday, and go on the air on Saturday morning and say... "we've got Band X live in the studio to play us some songs" and present them 'as live'... is that conning the audience? Having the band there live is infinitely more preferable than saying "we recorded this yesterday". But is it conning the audience?

But where does this end? If you record a call and edit it a bit before putting it on air.... is that also unfair?

Personally, I think a degree of theatre is OK. When you're actively involved in deception (i.e. call now to win) knowing that the audience are being taken for a ride, then you probably need to ask yourself 'why?'.

It's fair to say that these "smoke and mirror" tactics have been going on for as long as radio itself, not only in the BBC, but in commercial radio too. Because of the BBC's status and responsibility, it's having to air it's dirty laundry in public... but I'm sure the editorial guidelines within most commercial groups are being tightened up as we speak.

I bumped into Jenny Abramsky (BBC Audio and Music supremo) at a radio conference in Oslo recently and we talked about the current spate of BBC confessions. I admit to feeling rather bad for her at the moment, as she's no doubt going to face some awkward questions about the editorial integrity of the networks, and it's not really her fault!

So what's the solution? I believe this current witch-hunt within the BBC is counter productive. It continues to undermine the trust between listener and broadcaster. We know that quite a but of this stuff has gone on... do we need every instance to be trawled over? I think enough is enough. Let's call time on this. You can be sure that the BBC is having to be 'whiter than white' from now on and I'm certain lessons have been learnt.

And the commercial sector can be glad that the spotlight has not shone in its direction with the same ferocity.

Most radio stations, BBC or commercial, have probably not been involved seriously dodgy practises... but you can bet that any producer will think twice about calling a mate to help out on a pre-record now!