Opinion: Beale on ... Capital FM

As you will know, dear reader, there are many marketers who wouldn't recognise a well-crafted ad even if it hit them in the face with a Lion attached. But your sophisticated London media owner, now, ought to know a thing or two about creativity.

After all, they breath the advertising oxygen, hussle with comms strategists, golf with agency chiefs, pay all those, ahem, "consultancy" fees to media agencies ... surely our media owners should be enlightened on the principles of great advertising.

Sadly, it is rarely so. Instead of producing beacons of brilliant advertising to light the way for their own commercial clients, ads for media brands all too often betray a dissonance between the people producing the editorial content and the people responsible for marketing and selling it. If you live in the South East, you'll almost certainly have been ambushed by two new high-profile examples of the media-as-advertiser genre. Capital Radio and Heart have gone head-to-head and the battle for listeners starts with the battle for advertising stand-out. And it's not pretty.

The reason for the claws-out ad fest is a shake-up on Capital's breakfast show. Professional cheekie chappie Chris Tarrant has wiped his spittle off the early morning mic for the last time; professional cheekie chappie Johnny Vaughan is now popping the Berocca instead. For a taste of what Vaughan is offering, turn to page eight of this week's issue for our Behind the Hype.

The lynchpin of Capital's Vaughan campaign is a TV ad by Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners. It's cheesier than a trolley of fromage; if these are the depths to which Vaughan is happy to plumb in his search for an audience, then I reckon he'll do well. Johnny trills his way to work singing Maybe It's Because I'm a Londoner (the usual care-in-the-community stuff of the average daily commute) with all the natural grace of John Prescott. And as he tap dances with the roadsweepers in Trafalgar Square, he looks about as comfortable as Ron Atkinson at a Notting Hill carnival.

There's not quite enough excitement or razzmatazz to make this ad really zing. There's no sense that Vaughan's is an unmissable, dynamite show.

In fact, there's no sense at all of what his breakfast fare will be like at all. So he's a Londoner, so he loves London, so what? For a huge slug of the Capital's seven million residents, Wherever I Lay My Hat might have been a more appropriate song.

The whole effect feels so dated, like a 70s Saturday night on ITV. It's very under-produced, no clever camera shots or whizzy graphics. But therein lies a certain charm. Although it's not a good ad (nor quite so bad it's good), it's got a rough-edged, straightforward quality that gives it stand-out among the busyness of other ads. The same goes for the posters where a Gulliver Vaughan is looming over some of London's landmarks: the technique is a bit like the early days of give-it-a-go desktop publishing. Quaint.

Anyway, I thought the Capital ads were pretty average until I saw the Heart FM ads for its Jono and Harriet breakfast show. These display all the directing, scriptwriting and editing skills of a couple of fifth-formers doing work experience in an ad agency (in this case, Elliot Bora Perlmutter LLP). The troubling thing is that while Heart's ad is just awful - really, really awful - it gives a much better impression of what to expect if you decide to tune in.

Now I wonder how Capital and Heart feel about all those really badly written and produced radio ads that pollute their shows?

Dead cert for a Pencil? Well it feels like it was written with one.

File under ... D for sub-Dick Van Dyke's chimney-sweeping Cockney

(though less convincing).

What would the chairman's wife say? "What's that train-like thing

Johnny's travelling in?"

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