Hamish & Andy invited to join the Woolies creative team

There was an interesting and highly productive sequence of presentations at the CRA Radio Conference held in Melbourne a few weeks ago.

It started with Mark Ritson, a professor of marketing, who gave a highly entertaining and mildly controversial discourse on radio listening compared to new forms of audio and suggested that among younger media buyers radio had somehow lost it’s ‘cool factor’ to the shiny new digital up-starts. 

Then came Hamish and Andy who gave insights into becoming creative geniuses just like them. Good luck with that… it’s like expecting to cook like Gordon Ramsey because you saw him do it on TV. Even if I meticulously follow the recipes in his cookbook the only thing I can get to come out the same is the swearing.

Following that was a panel of media buyers who promised to tell the radio crowd what they needed to do to wrest more dollars from their clients’ budgets.

Peita Facey (left) Head of Strategy at Carat indicated that she wanted more creative collaboration. “Getting people from your networks involved in the creative process with us would be huge,” she enthused. “I lead the strategy for Woolworths and if we had our team run a brainstorm, and Hamish & Andy were in that brainstorm, helping us bounce ideas and come up with amazing ways to bring a particular element of Woolworths to life, that would be huge! 

“It would be huge from a client point of view, huge from a morale and motivational point of view and ideas point of view and would definitely get radio more entrenched in whatever that opportunity is,” said Ms Facey.

Her statement surprised many in the audience – none more than Wade Kingsley who heads up SCA’s The Studio which is designed to do precisely what Ms Facey says she needs but doesn’t get.

Even before The Studio was officially launched in February, SCA talent, spearheaded by Merrick Watts and Jules Lund, have been working with media agencies to provide branding concepts that fit with the stations’ own brand and the on air talent.

Mr Kingsley explains that The Studio was set up to formalise that notion, “The core competency of SCA, as business, is making fans for our brands – hit and Triple M. What we weren’t as good at was making fans for the brands that work with us. So now we’ve connected that whole suite of creative with the brands – which has brought some early success for us.”

Maybe Ms Facey missed the memo about The Studio and its collaborative approach to creating great radio but she did put the spotlight on a major difference with how her department approaches creative ideas and the way in which on-air talent does.

Watching the Hamish & Andy session in the morning, Ms Facey heard the boys talk about how you can’t create a big idea made to order “Yet,” as she points out, “That’s what we have to do all the time for our clients, make an idea fit into box.”

In that session Hamish & Andy’s producer Sam Kavanagh said to to them, “There’s a lot of pressure on teams to have big ideas to get their show talked about. How important do you think that is for radio?”

“It’s a curse,” says Andy.

“If that’s how the conversation starts there’s a one percent chance that idea will be funny,” says Hamish. “It will be over-thought and the chances of it being big are minuscule.

“But if the conversation starts with what’s a fun idea we could do and as a bi-product it happens to be a large event, yeah then fine, but I reckon it’s a common mistake.”

Therein lies the secret to coming up with ideas that really are big. After all, no one is ever going to come into a creative meeting and say, “What we need is a small idea and we’d rather it didn’t go viral.”

“The creative aspect is not just about the on air talent,” says Mr Kingsley. “There wouldn’t be a brand in Australia that wouldn’t want Hamish & Andy in a room with them coming up with an idea. The reality is that behind H&A is a fantastic team and a lot of the ideas for the show come from that team.”

“It (the process) starts with hearing from the client and understanding the brand’s challenges. To understand their point of view, we ask questions and we talk about the tone… If we spoke to your customers this way, would that work? Or would this way work better?” says Mr Kingsley.

So far The Studio has been accredited with helping LG triple their sales for OLED TV’s – which has a picture quality that’s not an easy thing to describe on radio. 

Mr Kingsley also cites Myer who wanted to bolster its sales in menswear. “What came out of the research,” he says, “Is that blokes going clothes shopping won’t necessarily take advice from celebrity models or people who look good. They’re going to take advice from their mates. In that context, we were able to use Merrick very effectively as a guy that’s also a bit unsure of that stuff and is trying to help them navigate through that whole tricky journey of style.

“So, we created a whole series of Mez versus Style. We’ve had couple of series of that. Merrick also appeared with his family in the Myer catalogue. He’s done some content pieces on video and some audience pieces in his show. And he was involved in the creation of all that stuff. He sat at the table with the Myer client and talked about the ideas he wanted to do. And as a result of that, Myer had some of their strongest sales days on record, says Mr Kingsley.

Peter Saxon