Do it differently


When I say creative people – I’m not just thinking about people paid to be creative in their job titles. Obviously, anyone in any job has the ability to be creative. Not everyone is encouraged to be captive. But creativity can come in all sorts of different ways. From creative ways to solving problems to creative ways of designing a product.

As I head back into my new job – though 3 months in, it feels far from new – I’m really conscious that its more than tempting to slip into do everything the same way all the time. As work piles on and deadlines loom, the pressure to get things delivered by an all too short deadline mount up. But there are always opportunities to approach things differently. I was pleased to see that whilst I’ve been away – someone who doesn’t get involved in the creative writing process had tackled a brief for a local client. It would have been easy, and tempting, to write something pretty functional to deliver the brief. But faced with a challenge, she has written something far more fun that does the job in a more entertaining way. It may need a little polishing to make it work entirely how I’d want it to work, but the fact that she’s approached it a different way is really refreshing.

So what will you try to do differently today?

The Truth about Creative sessions

Wallace and Grommit run a voice session - Photo - James Stodd
Wallace and Grommit run a voice session – Photo – James Stodd


A quick post triggered by Dan McGrath at This is Bounce for anyone who has ever had to run an audio session where an advertising agency (“the creatives”) or a client (“the pains in the backside who often change their mind for no reason but ultimately hold the budget”) are in attendance.

I’ve certainly had sessions like this (though thankfully not for a very long time – but the situations are all too familiar.

If you’re in the middle of your pre-Christmas client nightmare, take a moment or two to give it a watch!

And should you need any audio or music for projects, take a look at This is Bounce – they make a nice cup of tea and often have nice biscuits in too..


Would Kenny Everett be allowed to flourish in radio now?


Last week, I watched a wonderful drama about the life of the radio producer and broadcaster Kenny Everett.

For those of you born in the late 80s, or who aren’t from the UK, Kenny Everett was an amazingly creative radio broadcaster with an almost bottomless imagination. I never heard his shows on the radio. In fact, I never really watched his TV shows since my Mum thought he was a little vulgar.

He was an amazingly creative broadcaster who created a sonic world out of his imagination. All without digital editors, keyboards, and computer plugins – but a highly creative brain and some pretty deft production tools – using tape and multitrack recorders and pretty much any sound effect creating device he could find. And of course, a cast of thousands from one man’s voice.

There are numerous sites dedicated to him – this one seems a good starting place.

He made jingles for his shows. He wrote and produced promos. And he did it all himself.

And he broke all the rules. In fact, he was sacked many times for breaking those rules.

But how would radio in 2012 have reacted to this broadcaster? Would they have let him flourish or would they have trimmed his wings so that his creative expression was tamed? It’s interesting that the station that hired him after his sacking from the BBC was Capital Radio. Back then, when Capital started, it was a station that had everything to win. It took risks, had a range of shows from rock to classical, and it was huge. Here was a broadcaster that was also larger than life and took loads of creative risks.

What would Kenny have made with the laborious compliance process? Would it have curtailed his creative journey – or would the rules and regulations actually have helped him to refine his comedy?

One thing is clear – there is a real need for someone like Kenny in radio these days. Maybe someone to work in your creative or imaging department or maybe someone on air. Without people like Kenny, radio is slightly less interesting. If you have never heard any of his shows or production, you should take a listen – you might learn something.

Inventing a solution


The BBC Proms are back.

In this job, there are a number of projects that crop up every year. The same thing happens in the yearly life cycle of most production departments. At Capital it was Party in the Park and Help a London Child. And here in the Cross trails team, it’s The BBC Proms. Essentially the same event every year with a different lineup.

There’s always a temptation to promote these kinds of events in the same way – ie a fairly simple billboard promo with clips of music pointing towards a TX time or the date that the season starts.
Add to that, the need for the radio campaign to closely tie in to the TV creative campaign.

This year, the challenge was that the TV trail essentially combined 3 key Proms pieces with some beautifully shot images showing people’s emotions as they listened to the music. The easiest solution was for the radio trail to reflect that and simply be a simply cut montage of 3 or 4 key pieces and a VO guiding the listener through the highlights. And that’s what we did for the trails for Radio 3 and 4

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There was more of a challenge for us for the trail to run on Radio 2. Whilst there is a good part of their audience that appreciates the broad part of the Proms programme, it’s quite hard for the media schedulers to fit a purely classical music trail across the whole Radio 2 schedule.

Luckily, there was perfect creative hook available.

One of the highlights of the Proms for the past few years, particularly for the younger and family audiences, has been the Family Prom. Over the past 3 years there have been 2 Doctor Who Proms and also a Horrible Histories Prom. And this year, it’s a Wallace and Gromit themed concert.

For those of you not in the UK, Wallace and Gromit are an animated duo who have featured in a number of TV programmes and also an Oscar winning film over the past 10 years or more. The characters are a man (Wallace) who is a prolific inventor (of fairly improbable gadgets) and his world-weary dog Gromit (who is the more intelligent half of the duo).

And with that material as a starting point, the idea was born – to feature the characters in a specially written trail for the Proms – inventing a Proms machine that composes music – which of course goes wrong.

It’s not so much the idea that I’m proud of, but the fact that we came up with it in a creative meeting where collaborative ideas are always welcome and discussed. The fact that we have the relationships with Aardman, the animation company, helped. And the fact that the stakeholders (including the director of the Proms) were open to a different creative idea.

And the creative journey was fairly simple. From my idea in a meeting to the script from the ad agency, the process involved the creative team at Aardman checking we had the language right for their characters and finally recording the character voices for us.

The point I’m trying to make is that whatever the project, you can pretty much always find a creative angle to solve the brief. If its something that you come across time and again (maybe another advert for a dull client), work out what you can do differently. For us, it was the fact that the character was an inventor. But we could equally have focused on the numbers involved – over 150 composers over 3 months – and worked up an idea from there.

The proms start on BBC Radio 3 and across the BBC tonight and the Wallace and Gromit Prom is live on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday July 29th and will be on BBC TV later in the Summer.

Here’s the trail. The agency is Karmarama and the producer who made it for me is Gav Matthews at Kalua Creative.

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Educating advertisers: avoiding the “creative abyss”.

Photo by James Stodd on Instagram

Does radio really suffer from a “creative abyss”? Are there a lack of ideas? (hence the tenuous light bulb reference..)

Long time radio commercial producer John Mountford, from commercial production house JMS thinks so.

You can read his blog post here .

In the post he says;

I believe the progressive devaluation of radio creativity is in great part down to the radio industry itself. Whereas it should be actively encouraging creativity, its own systems run directly counter to this.

I have often worked alongside some huge advertising agencies. Some of them “get” radio and some don’t. And their “big ideas” (often TV based to tie in with big TV campaigns) aren’t necessarily always big enough for radio. We normally help them get to a good place – it’s a bit of a collaborative process.

We make great efforts to help these agencies to understand radio, and also the uniqueness of BBC radio. A snall number of the people I meet admit they don’t listen to radio at all. So education in what’s special about radio is often needed.

We bring them in for creative sessions, take them into the radio networks to see how radio is actually created. It’s a two way process, and needs to be collaborative. But with persistence, it can pay off too.

In answer to John; I feel your pain – particularly with some smaller scale local advertising.

Stations are to blame in this – but sometimes it’s down to a lack of understanding by advertisers. There is a need for radio stations to educate their clients, and it seems the RAB are doing a lot to assist in this area.

But it’s down to educating sales teams too. And if they don’t have a love for the medium – we’re stuffed.