Monday, 19 September 2011

"Never Knowingly Undercreative"

Once again, the retailer John Lewis have come up with a fantastic ad using great music and 'the power of retro' to place their flag in the sand. They have been, and continue to be the retailer when it comes to buying electrical goods. A great idea, well executed.

And we like those!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

9/11 - 10 Years On...

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 is naturally getting enormous coverage on TV and radio around the world. The numerous documentaries bring back the true horror of the day, and the sights and sounds still shock me, even 10 years on. In fact, I doubt they'll ever fail to shock me.

Radio stations all over the world are reflecting the anniversary of a day that undoubtedly changed the world.

Matt Deegan alerted his Facebook friends to a particular piece of audio that he'd discovered, which has been posted on the 98.5 KLUC website. They're a CHR station based in Las Vegas. (Big hat-tip to Matt)

10 years ago there was a version released of Heaven by DJ Sammy featuring the words of a 5 year old girl who lost her father in the 9/11 attacks. This new version marks the 10th anniversary and is the updated story of a girl from aged 5, right the way through to today, and her high school years.

The power of emotion is one of radio's greatest tools, and when meaningful words loaded with feeling, and an evocative piece of music are blended... the result is breathtaking.

As the KLUC guys say, we bet you can't keep a dry eye through it. I certainly couldn't.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Audio of Quality and Distinction

Here’s a self-evident truth; audio generally has to be interesting to grab the attention of the listener. Whether it’s a radio commercial, a DJ talking or even a sonic logo... it needs to cut through fairly quickly to make me want to give it some of my ‘ear time’.

This should also be true of podcasts.

The reason I mention this is I’m currently working on a project with my colleague Dan McGrath, advising a company wishing to develop an audio podcast strategy. They work in the technology sector, and as part of my research I thought I’d listen to some of the other ‘techy’ podcasts that are out there and seemingly doing well at the moment. And boy was I surprised.

The vast majority of them are really badly produced, badly presented and just badly thought out. Sorry – but it’s true.

Now, I know that I’m applying radio production standards to what are (mostly) plainly not radio shows, but I don’t think that’s a genuine excuse for badly produced audio. The same principle should still apply. It should interest the listener and grab their attention, and make them want to listen more, or subscribe or come back for more at a later date. Many of them had me hitting the stop button. And, for the record, it’s not that I wasn’t interested in the subject either. I’m as geeky about technology as the next geeky guy with glasses!

So do the listeners of these podcasts merely ‘put up’ with the poor quality, as that’s the price to pay for getting niche content? I guess so. Or is it the case that the very ‘DIY’ nature of some podcasts are intrinsic to their appeal? Has the democratisation of the means of production meant that now anyone with a laptop and a £9.99 mic from Maplin can be an ‘audio content producer’, and therein lies the appeal? Is the allure for listeners to these that the media is no longer controlled by the elite, but by the masses? Possibly... but if the masses could make it sound a bit better and try a bit harder, then that would be lovely thank you very much.

I’m looking forward to the session at the forthcoming conference called “Top 5 Reasons Why Podcasts Are Different To Radio” presented by Francesca Panetta, who is Head of Audio at The Guardian. She should know, as she used to work for BBC Radios 3 and 4, and is now heading up the Guardian's audio offerings, which are on the whole pretty good. I hope she’ll point out the positive differences that podcasts have with radio, but still at least want to maintain a minimum quality threshold.

I really like podcasts. The on-demand world of speech content is now a very rich and varied one, with every conceivable topic covered, and the fact that more and more people are consuming audio content is a great thing.

And although podcasts do have differences to radio, isn’t it funny how some of the most popular podcasts with consumers are just re-packaged radio shows, and if they’re not... they have some really solid radio production techniques behind them.

So – a plea to larger FMCG brands who have podcasts, and other corporate or semi-corporate entities who have branded audio content in this arena. Please do think about how the quality of these reflect on your brand, and don’t settle for something that’s sub-standard just because “it’s only a podcast”. Produce quality and they will return, and return again.

And then the relationship with your consumers can really begin.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Back To School...

September always feels like the 'back to school' month after the long, hot, balmy summer that we had here in the UK. Well... not really, but anyway...

And with that comes a glut of conferences to attend, clients to see and projects to develop.

At the tail end of August, it was great to hook up with all the guys from P5 in Norway at their summer conference. It was an opportunity for all the team to be updated on the current state of the market, new initiatives moving forward and what lies ahead for 2012. But even more than that, it was a great ‘team’ event. It’s easy to be cynical about these kind of get togethers, but I witnessed first-hand the great effect that making members of your station ‘walk the plank’ can have!! If your station doesn’t do events like this every now again, start doing them!!

There’s a good buzz about the conference in London in a couple of weeks time. There’s a fantastic line-up of speakers and I also have my allotted ‘9 minutes’ to deliver some sage words to the assembled crowd. I hope this event proves to be an annual get together, offering a forum for new, fresh and innovative ideas in radio.

Cyprus is a country I’ve not been to before, and I’m really looking forward to speaking at the ‘Radio Breakfast’ at the end of September organised by Dias Media, who are one of the big media players on the island. Any opportunity to drive home the benefits of using radio as a great medium for advertising is one that I can’t resist, and they tell me the sun always shines in Nicosia this time of year!!

Denmark’s annual get together of the good, bad, and erm... ‘damn good looking’ of Danish radio takes place at the start of October. Radiodays Denmark (from which Radiodays Europe sprung from) is always a great day, and the fact it’s combined with the Danish Radio Awards on the same night ensures it’s a hell of a party. I’m doing a session with the PD of London’s Number 1 Commercial station – Magic 105.4, Pete Simmons. We’re looking at “The Magic Behind Magic” (the title was too easy I know) and we’ll be dissecting the factors that have made that station consistently perform well in a tough market.

So, in between all that, I think some visits to client stations in Austria and Slovakia are in order, as everyone is now ‘back to school’. Plus **plug alert** my Saturday morning show on Absolute 80s (‘Cafe 80s’) which I present along with Dan McGrath, is going great guns and keeping us busy... so I guess that it’ll be a pretty busy month ahead.

Plus there’s another very exciting project in development... but more about that when the time is right!

Welcome ‘Back to School’ everyone!!