Why I’d Rather JACK

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I’m pretty lucky. The job I have now probably allows me to be more creative in the stuff I create than any job I’ve previously done.

This is slightly disappointing.

Surely every person who works in the creative industries should be able to be creative all the time. But often rules prevent this happening.

When I worked in marketing at the BBC, the rules were often down to suitability of radio trail for   “network fit”.  Or limited by the visual TV campaign creative that didn’t contain an easily transferable radio creative. As a team, we’d normally find a way to make the creative work well on radio, and many times created a radio campaign that worked in really surprising ways. But I sometimes wish that I  had pushed harder on my campaigns. This was probably sometimes my fault – but also sometimes simply down to the nature that each radio network was very particular about the network sound.

This is one of the reasons why I moved back into working in a radio station, where I could directly help shape the sound of the station, contribute creative ideas, and ultimately, actually get the things I wanted to create on air without (many) barriers.

With JACK fm, everything I do is born out of the rules and rigours of the previous formats I’ve  worked on throughout my career.  I twist an idea, break a rule, or  try a different slant on things.

Because doing things the same way every time is predictable, and that is boring.

Many PDs at radio stations are pretty set in the way they want things to be done. In many formats, there’s a good deal of evidence why things should be done that way. But I truly believe that in almost every format, rules can be broken. Of course, it depends on the format, the market and the audience. But everyone likes to be surprised sometimes, so why not surprise them now and again?

Here’s a few examples of how we’ve done things a bit differently recently at JACK.

JACK PACK at COWES WEEK

Promos for station events can be a bit dull. There’s often very little reason to promote what you’ll be doing on air. Sometimes it’s part of a contra deal commitment. Or in order to get on site branding, the sales team have managed to squeeze in some on air promotion. This is fine if there is a genuine reason to promote something, but sometimes is little more than filling airtime to get in a sponsor or event name. We started using these 2 anchorman inspired characters to promote events where the JACK Pack were going to be at. Sometimes Chuck McGutsup would throw to a real JACK Pack reporter who’d add in event details, and sometimes, he’d throw to his friend Huw Jarse. It’s all a bit Simpsons in terms of stupid names, but for our audience, it’s suitably irreverent.

DON’T BE DAFT, PUNK

JACK plays what we want. We don’t often play new stuff. This annoyed me a bit as last summer, this song was huge. When I was driving through France on holiday, it played almost non stop on NRJ, and I kept singing “We Play What We Want” to hook of the song. On my return, I’d read a blog post by my friend Andreas on the Benztown Branding blog about how they’d been recreating the Daft Punk sound. So I gave him a shout and got him to record the vocals for this piece. Having made it,we forgot to load it on air and then started running it well after the song was a hit. That made it work just as well, as on JACK, music is pretty timeless so it didn’t matter that by then , most music stations had long forgotten it.

BAM BAM at BREAKFAST

There’s nothing remotely original about most of this. But it’s got a bit of a JACK twist. Many of these IDs take a hook or a line of a classic rock song that I  play with a sound clip or recreated BAM BAM voice sample added in. We have the additional resource of Marc Silk as a VO , so sometimes, we just make up voices and phrases at the end of the session. Most of these out takes and ad-libs are what make these IDs work.

Radio is such an easy medium to be creative in. You simply need an idea, a voice and some imagination to create almost anything. So if you are a producer and are about to create something this week – why not ask yourself which rules you can break. They don’t necessarily need to be big rules, and certainly don’t need to break your brand sound. But they might make for a slightly more interesting listen.

We’ve just added a musical theme to BAM BAM’s show too. Steve Martin has blogged about it (and has a premier of the “video”) on the Earshot Creative Review .

RADIODAYS EUROPE

I’m taking part in a panel discussion at Radiodays Europe in March, where we’ll discuss this subject in more detail. You can find more details here.

Breaking the Creative Rules of Imaging and Branding

James Stodd (UK), Goran Kurjak (Croatia), Andreas Sannemann (Germany)

The thing with radio formats is that all imaging and production has to sound the same… right? Wrong.

This session aims to break the myths of radio production – and show that whilst formatted radio is here to stay, there are many ways where you can surprise your listeners.

Join some of Europe’s most creative imaging experts who’ll show you how to break the creative rules of imaging and branding.

Speakers: James Stodd (Senior Producer at Celador Radio in the UK),  Andreas Sannemann (CEO, Benztown, Germany) and Goran Kurjak (Creative Director, Otvoreni Radio, Croatia).

You can find more details here.

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