The Jingle Bell Ball Rocks

I remember writing, back in June, about 95.8 Capital FM’s Summertime Ball. My conclusion was that the event was great, but the online coverage were pretty average.

This weekend, they ramped it up 1000 per cent – and gave a pretty much perfect example of how this sort of event can live and breathe online and on air.

If I’d been a listener getting ready to go to the ball, there was pretty much everything  I’d have wanted. From online travel guides, to background on all the artists. And as the weekend arrived, the content ramped up too.

From their YouTube channel, there was this clever  preview of the stage going up:

And as the event progressed, all the backstage interviews arrived here too. From Ne-Yo to JLS, to the most viewed at present – Miley Cyrus.

But my favourite part was the online blog, and more impressive – the Twitter update feed. This gave a really interesting insight into the whole event, from the buildup to what was going on backstage. Even the iPhone app had photos and content updated on it throughout the evening – great for listeners on their way home listening to the station.

And from the look of it – the listeners enjoyed it too.

As the promos said last night – “only Capital could do an event like this” It was big. It was in your face . And it was 2 sell-out nights at the O2.

Nice one Capital.

Capital – (Hot Rockin’) at Last?

It’s been over 12 months since I left Capital FM.

When I left, I had mixed feelings. Here was a station which I’d put loads of time and effort into as part of a dedicated production team who had been passionate about making it succeed, despite many changes in direction, format and leadership. We’d had to face being judged day in day out by media obeservers, the press and at many points, by the City.  Yet, throughout it all, there was a core team of people who really did want it to get better.

So you can maybe understand that I was a little cynical about the sound being created by the new owners in the months after I left.

Well, for the record, I think they were probably right. To make a wholesale change, you really do need to be brutal – strip stuff down and get back to basics. As an imaging producer, for me the sound was too simple, too basic. But it has probably done the job it was intended to do. Strip it back, let  the music talk, and then start building on a few core things; big events, the biggest hits and the big stars. And that’s what they’ve done.

And I think it’s an important point to be aware of. You can’t just produce the type of radio you want to hear as a producer. It has to be attuned to how the listener hears it, and relate to them in the right ways. What I find now in my current job, working for Pure Tonic Media, is that there’s a real need to be able to switch your ways of thinking depending on the particular project you’re working on. In one week, I can be making material for CHR format stations, a rock format and then, like last week, BBC Radio 3 and 4

But there has to be room in station imaging for touches of humour or topicality.  And there are odd moments of that in Capital’s current production used for the Jingle Bell Ball. In fact this morning I heard a brilliantly simple piece featuring Sir Michael Caine uttering the line “even I can’t get tickets; the only way I’ll be able to get in is to blow the bloomin’ doors off”. Simple, creative and fun. I hope they’ll start doing this more on occasion – otherwise it can all begin to sound a little one dimensional.

In fact, events like the Summertime Ball and currently the Jingle Bell Ball now show how much Capital is heading back on track.

Nik Goodman mentioned recently how he thought the current TV ad for the event had pretty poor production values for such a big brand. I do agree it doesn’t look a million dollars and doesn’t sound that creative. However, it is in your face and has a pretty simple message: we’ve got the biggest stars, you want to come ,and the only way you can is to listen to us. Yes it’s big, bragging and boastful – but good or bad, that’s what Capital does well. You don’t go to them for insightful analysis. You go there for Johnny Vaughan having a laugh with the punters, the latest Black Eyed Peas song and concert tickets. And if they can win with that in a crowded market, they should keep doing it.