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.