Can I get a minute to breathe? And in that minute you leave…

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Brands basically are what they are. They can change their logo, they can change their stationery and post glossy photos on their website encouraging a rebrand, but ultimately, they are what they are.

Given that, sometimes you need to start over.

A brand becomes outdated, your target audience no longer responds, the metrics of success just aren’t what they once were, And it can happen stunningly quickly. Can you change, can you keep your target audience involved and engaged through changes?

Can you be the blokiest bloke radio station in Australia, plant a flag in the ground as that, and then act shocked when someone takes that to its logical end point? When a fill in host, given the platform to get himself into the mainstream, the A team on Triple M, goes with the blokiest thing they can imagine, egging each other on.

After all, Bill Brownless (mumble, mumble, me wallet) does more or less the same thing in a jocular package of amiability: he says things like “Hey the strippers are here!” and talks about his daughters dating boys while Brayshaw talks about his son being a good looking rooster….why not talk about “me wife”, it works for Billy! Works for the A team on a Saturday….

When a group think takes hold that this is “what the audience wants!”…

Can you truly be surprised when “the radio station that takes you inside the locker room!” truly takes you inside the locker room…

Make his eyes see forever

Triple M football is what it is. Hell, the station is what it is.

The station that decided to post the “Ozzfest 100” to pursue the flag waving demographic, that broadcast the King Kong/Eddie McGuire comments without any kind of punishment for on air staff, that didn’t even notice anything wrong with the Caroline Wilson comments until people pointed it out to them….

This is a station of unbridled, preening arrogance, that revelled in being the station that brought “the locker room to the masses”, that boasted about taking the “piss” out of everything. The logical extension? Blokey coverage for blokey blokes.

Fine, be that. No one is stopping you marketing to that demographic.

But suddenly, there’s a line in the Triple M brand, and that’s strange….strange, hypocritical, and definitely off brand…

When Barry Hall, the latest in a long line of ex footballers who “aren’t bad blokes really (TM)”, showcased his best joke about Leigh Montagnas wife (yes that one) it sounded like a station endorsed “bit” – it sounded planned, it sounded like….Triple M. There’s no getting away from that.

It goes without saying no-one in any of this saga comes out with any credit – certainly not Hall, who came up with the kind of comment de rigueur for any sportsman’s night at a local footy club in 1988, but not fit for public broadcast on any level.

If there is one thing that would mystify Hall, it’s why he’s where the line is drawn. After all, Triple M football still mines a rich vein of “your missus goes alright” comedy that continues on to this day. It’s easy though to fire the fill in co-host.

If it was Bill Brownless who said it after a “few froffies”, or Eddie McGuire, would they fire them? Answers on a postcard…

Sam Newman can after all call a Malaysian woman live on air a monkey (with Brendan Fevola giggling in the background) and suffer no loss of income.

Eddie McGuire is nursed through the fall out from the Adam Goodes “gaffe” (their words) by supportive friends and true. Hell, in a jaw dropping piece of television, Heritier Lumumba went on AFL360 with McGuire post the Goodes incident to explain why it was offensive and the final segment was Mark Robinson attacking….Lumumba….before the most awkward transition to King and McClure imaginable….

James Brayshaw got away with the Caroline Wilson “gaffe” (their words) without skipping a show.

Lawrence Mooney got to ask Sam Lane about “liking Cox” (guffaw, snigger) and that didn’t go anywhere…Brian Taylor called Harry Taylor a “big poofter” on air for wearing gloves…we have the same conversations, we meander through the backlash to the backlash and the world keeps on turning for AFLM media. Hall may wonder in a quiet moment, why me?

The Triple M/Channel 7 guide to where this fuzzy line is would be a hell of a document….

Halls apology meanwhile was written directly out of a PR template. “It was a silly thing to say” sounded like he had predicted Essendon to win the flag rather than anything sincere, and (industry bugbear here) any apology that starts with a reference to anyone who “takes offence” should see the writer of that PR industry leave the industry.

It definitely shames Montagna to mine a seam of footballer comedy from “me missus is pregnant eh!” straight out of a 1980s playbook, like it was a bad stand up routine.

This is a commentator on women’s football, co-host of a nightly panel show on Fox Footy show about womens footy during the season, who might have blown up his commentary career for a topic that should never have been broached to begin with.

Back to the start, not only brands are who they are, people are who they are. Hall and Montagna going into that topic like it was a hilarious jape they’d worked on was quite something to say the least.

It shows who they are, and no “good bloke” rhetoric can show it. Live mics show who you are, your jokes show who they are….

It definitely shames Mark Howard, giggling along with the cool kids again. Howard was giggling in the background of the infamous Mel McLaughlin/Chris Gayle interview, and repeated his faux apology from that incident on air after this one.

It definitely shames Nathan Brown and Damien Barrett, who did nothing but then repeated insincere apologies scripted in PR departments that emphasised the phrase disgusting like a mantra. Giggle along, boys. Endorse the joke. We heard, we noticed…

Barrett in particular long ago traded any prospects of journalism to join in, to throw his lot in the Triple M brand, to drop down a gear on the news breaking to get paid for writing footballs most phoned in column Sliding Doors, to become the Salieri of football journalism, to let footballers try on his glasses and be a “personality”….

It’s too late to be censorious and moral now…

I pretend I’m somewhere else

All of the above is the self-evident stuff – a vile comment went to air on Triple M, and on we proceed. Are there lessons to learn here? Do they change, freshen up?

What comes of all this? Introspection? Greater monitoring? More judicious use of the dump button? Reflection that this style of programming has gone as far as it can?

Well…

The Footy Show ratings are cratering, and Triple M is losing all rating days to 3AW, so there are reasons to think of this as a line in the brand. For all the bluff and bluster on social media from the “what’s wrong with having a LAUGH!” brigade, those people aren’t supporting this media in the ways they once did, not purchasing from their sponsors in the way they once did.

And even if they did, what sponsor wants to be the first break after a Barry Hall “joke”, or be left marketing to a small, but angry section of consumer at the exclusion of all others?

The ratings don’t justify the risk, the exposure with low ratings doesn’t mitigate the risk to your brand through association. Sponsor spending is already judicious in this day and age. Marketing spend is heavily scrutinised. Sponsors aren’t spending to just sit near James Brayshaw at lunch like the old days – they want value and healthy relationships. T

They don’t want the Barry Hall backlash…

Triple M will be desperate to keep sponsors at any cost, and no one mentioned in the above paragraph is immune to being released to show “Triple M has changed”…

In fact, you could argue Triple M have become everything they hate – James Brayshaw in the glory days decried other radio stations sponsorship deals and that they were marketing to old listeners and they were the only ones marketing “to listeners under 60 who are alive and breathing”….well…might want to check your median audience these days…

Of course, there have been grounds for optimism for new dawns in football media that have been dashed before. Patrick Dangerfield took on the Footy Show, Jack Riewoldt and Richmond boycotted Triple M for a week after the Caroline Wilson comments, and then things returned to normal.

So is this time different? In the immediate aftermath of (lets pick one at random) Brian Taylors comment on Harry Taylor, we went through the Sturm und drang of people calling out the bigotry and then people muttering about political correctness and what’s wrong with having a LAUGH like happens every time, and this is probably going to be the same…

But what if it’s not?

For Hall to be immediately fired without even the pretence of an “investigation” or “looking into the comments” is as much about his place on the Triple M totem pole as anything, let’s be clear on that, but there’s also a change in the ratings. This is not a bullet proof system anymore, the formula is failing.

The Footy Show can’t get attention no matter what it tries. Lets be purely cynical, this is now a business decision. What do you want your footy coverage to sound like? Rex Hunt was invaluable until he wasn’t.

Triple M is what it is, but they can tweak the formula. People on the radio station aren’t so indispensable when they are losing the ratings.

If there is a change coming, it won’t be moral, it will be business. Talk of air time on Triple M to discuss why this is wrong seems misguidedly optimistic. They want it to go away.

If they do address a root cause of an ugly group think that encourages cackling and giggling in these situations, of the Howard’s and Barrett’s and Brayshaws joining in with the footballers, if they do come up with a new style, it will be entirely around a backlash and fading ratings. The rebrand will be cynical, cynical like Eddie McGuires look we love women end to last years grand final Footy Show.

All bets are off when Triple M footy is #2 in the ratings. There won’t be a social change, there will be a focus group driven change, that is the Triple M culture. Their PR and marketing department are as conscious of demographic shifts as any entity in Australia.

This is not a corporation that has inoculated itself to criticism, a la Channel 7. If there is a problem, imagined or real, they will be ruthless.

So the changes, the censuring of Mark Howard or Leigh Montagna on top for instance, will come from that base. They are listener first, always will be. Where that takes them will be fascinating, but given their corporate metrics and sensitivity to viewer feedback, it could be brutal…

Triple M won’t become an “inclusive” workplace by chance…if there is a hint of a change in the Alpha Male swaggering philosophy of Triple M, it will be carefully planned. Sacking Hall was easy. There was no brand loyalty to Hall from the listener.

And to be honest, maybe there isn’t to the Triple M “team” overall – Lyon and Frawley are gone, Dunstall is gone, Darcy is gone. The old days are over. The family dynamic was shattered anyway with, well, you know, mumble mumble another mans wallet. A business reboot could be coming…

Hall will, of course, be fine, this is evolution not revolution, for now. He might be toxic to the mainstream for a while, but when they’ve tripped over themselves to rebrand Wayne Carey, they can rebuild anyone.

Outside of Triple M, you can be sure the footy world will give him another chance. Changing THAT part of football (as opposed to media) is another tale for another day…

Hell, Carey told a depression sufferer to “neck himself” and got back for…reasons. The sportsman circuit welcomes all comers, and he can tell tall tales and true with Mal Brown and Jacko if all else fails….

The one about “me missus” kills in that environment apparently….

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