In a candid discussion, Craig Bruce tells Peter Saxon what went wrong with 2Day Breakfast and the frustration of everyone thinking they know something you don’t.
Even Steven Spielberg has had a flop or two in his career – think Hook. And a cast including Warren Beaty, Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman couldn’t save Ishtar.
From almost the beginning, Craig Bruce (CB) could see there were problems with 2Day FM’s new Breakfast show – the one they’d introduced to plug the hole left by Kyle and Jackie O who moved to KIIS 106.5.
“We launched poorly. The first week on the air was not at the level that Sydney radio needs to be,” CB admits.
“There were lots of reasons for that. Jules (Lund) was still learning his anchoring skills and it took a little while to find his feet there. We had Mel B down the line from Los Angeles, which meant she wasn’t in the studio while we were trying to fold her in.
“With four voices it was messy.
“So, in that first week when we were trying to launch a first impression, it was probably negative rather than positive. In fact, I’m sure it was negative,” says CB.
We tried to maintain the 2Day FM brand heritage. That, obviously, didn’t work.
By the middle of the year, CB and the small army of programming gurus at SCA knew that the show was beyond salvage.
“We didn’t have a large enough point of difference from Kyle and Jack. We’d launched with ‘Breakfast with the Stars.’ We tried to maintain the 2Day FM brand heritage of ‘celebrities and pop culture.’ That, obviously, didn’t work,” says CB.
But publicly, he had a duty to maintain support for his beleaguered stars. The irony is that people now say to him, “You said you weren’t going to get rid of Sophie Jules and Merrick,” CB’s reply: “As if I was going to tell you before I tell staff and all of the key stakeholders.”
Every major network at one time or another, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet laments, has had to, “suffer the slings and arrows of outragous fortune.” Right now, Fairfax Radio Chief, Adam Lang, who has similar issues to SCA with 2UE, 4BC and 6PR, would also know the frustration of being taunted by armchair critics who make instant judgements on what should or shouldn’t have happened and what should be done, without the burden of having to actually do it and take responsibility for it.
“Sometimes I think people assume we’re walking around with our heads up our backsides,” says CB. “We read radioinfo too, and it’s obvious that people are seeing the same things we are. But I’ve stopped worrying about it. I don’t overly concern myself with what other people think, other than our own teams around us.
There was a large audience that were going to follow Kyle and Jack to the ends of the earth. And they have
“It’s very easy to write a narrative around who’s won and who’s lost. ‘ARN has won and SCA has lost.’ That’s assuming it’s a game with a time limit that finishes. But we’re on a continuum here. We get to come back next year. And we get to come back with Hamish & Andy. We get to come back with Dan & Maz. We’re developing this amazing new brand out of Adelaide.
“People have asked me, why didn’t you launch with Dan and Maz? Well, I think Dan and Maz would have got a similar result because there was a large audience that were going to follow Kyle and Jack to the ends of the earth, and they have,” says CB.
The decision to replace a heritage Breakfast show like SCA took last year with Matt and Jo on FOX or Kyle and Jackie O on 2Day is made well in advance because it takes a great deal of planning to get everything in place – not just the talent, but the marketing too. Replacing a Breakfast show that replaced the previous one less than a year can’t happen overnight either, as much as it may need to.
CB insists he is well aware about what’s ahead and how long it is likely to take. “Now we need to find the next audience coming through… those 18-34 year olds and 10-39 year olds… anyone under 40 that haven’t grown up with Kyle and Jackie O – and there are plenty of them – and see if we can build a new relationship with them.
Momentum is an interesting thing with radio. You can lose your confidence but you don’t lose your competence.
“In 2004 we procrastinated for months about putting Kyle and Jack into breakfast to replace Judith Lucy. At the time they were doing Drive having come out of nights and our concern was that they weren’t adult enough for Breakfast. But they were different. They launched with celebrity pop culture. They were different to Merrick and Rosso (then on Nova 96.9). And, by the way, we didn’t have any stellar results with Kyle and Jack. It took a year and a half, 14 surveys and millions and millions of dollars in marketing to get them to eventually win a survey.
In a final rebuke to SCA’s critics, Craig Bruce says, “It’s one thing to say, who’s the winner and who’s the loser but it (the contest) is not going to have an end. ARN with Mix were in the hole for years and years in Sydney with disastrous Breakfast shows, one after another. And then suddenly, pop, everything turns around.
“Momentum is an interesting thing with radio. Clearly, we haven’t had a great year at 2Day FM. But that doesn’t mean we’ve lost our ability. As Eddie McGuire often says, “You can lose your confidence but you don’t lose your competence.”
“I’m confident that we’ll have a show in the marketplace next year that will sound different and that’s a good place to start. The key for us this year is to hold our heads up high knowing that we can do good work and that we are genuinely excited about next year.”