advertising humour

Waking up your street

The story behind Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner is one of the most popular posts I’ve written here, so I was pleased to discover this ‘making of’ trade video we made for the follow-up ad for Capital FM in 2005.

I’m pretty proud of it. Looking back, the effort, thinking and professionalism shines through. It’s also quite clear how expensive the ad was and I wonder if radio will ever see its like again – not that this execution or media approach would necessarily be right today. 2005 was before anyone had heard of YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.

Many thanks to the excellent Alex Boyesen of Digital Mixes who made this video

live surprise

Turning a classic London bus into a mobile studio

One of the more unusual projects I’ve had to manage was the transformation of a classic (but battered) Routemaster bus into a fully-functioning mobile studio for outside broadcasts.

In late 2005 as those much loved icons of London had been decommissioned en masse, I’d dreamily floated the idea of turning one into a roaming studio. And yet, I was in unchartered waters when my boss said, “well, sort one out then”.

So it was on a rain-splattered day in December 2005 that I found myself handing over £8,000 and collecting RML 2573 from some Godforsaken windswept depot in South London. Showbiz indeed.

Here you can see the transformation in a series of rather shoddy shots, culminating in an appearance of the breakfast show team at Gray’s School in June 2006

Bonus detail for bus fans – the renovation was by Southeast Coachworks


The story behind Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner

Of all the TV ads I’ve been involved in, I’m probably most proud of the launch campaign for the Johnny Vaughan breakfast show. James Cridland was kind enough to rate it:

…the very best radio personality ad. Conveying the benefit of listening to local radio not national, conveying the personality of the breakfast host, and with a clear message of the radio station itself.

Chris Tarrant was leaving the station after 17 years and had been unassailable in the ratings for a long time. Breakfast shows have the biggest audience of the day, and listening habits at that time are very habitual. People don’t want change while they stumble through their morning routines, so changing the biggest show on the highest profile commercial radio station felt like undertaking a product heart transplant.

Johnny had been selected because he had star quality, London credentials and was a proven morning entertainer (thanks to the Big Breakfast). However, just sticking a well-known name in wasn’t enough. We ran a workshop to nail what was to be true (about Johnny and Capital), motivating (to listeners and advertisers) and distinct (in the marketplace).

This resulted in a thought that Johnny was a loveable rogue and that the show would be London’s most entertaining breakfast show.

The incumbent agency, DLKW, were given the brief, and Malcolm Green delivered the idea. It was markedly different to the usual run-of-the-mill radio ad scripts, so to sell it to the board, two reference videos were used.

Firstly, this scene from Oliver showed the joyousness and broad appeal of a song-and-dance London street scene:

Secondly, could Johnny pull it off? He’s a talented chap, but not a trained dancer. This music video for Fatboy Slim showed Christopher Walken going through a few basic steps and looking drop dead cool. Michael Rooney choreographed Johnny brilliantly and I can still hear him urging “Sing, Johnny, SING!” during the filming.

The final ad took two and a half days to shoot. We’d wanted four but that was waaay too expensive, so it ended up being 6am – midnight filming over a long weekend. It was filmed in January and was freezing. Johnny’s wearing long johns in the Piccadilly Circus scene.

This out-take was entirely spontaneous – hence the genuine laughter from the crew squeezed into the corner of the studio. We ran a bleeped version of this ending in cinema and it went down a storm.