10 Questions: Duncan Campbell

Staff Writer

Duncan Campbell is the Group Content Director for the Australian Radio Network, and he was happy to answer '10 Questions' on how the network is looking.


From an outsiders perspective, it looks like ARN are investing more in the Mix brand particularly than they have for some time – some new talent signings, marketing, new Content Directors. What's brought about the change?

There is no doubt that we want Mix Sydney and Melbourne to be more successful. We’re happy with our other stations to some degree but the frustration is Mix in Sydney and Melbourne and we took the decision to be more aggressive this year because we’re determined to make more of an impact in the ratings. We hired Chrissie Swan and Jane Hall for Mix Melbourne and signed Tim Ross for Mix Sydney. We also wanted to market the stations and have developed TVC’s for all our stations in fact, and are currently running them for Mix Sydney and Melbourne. We also hired two of the most exciting programmers around today in Ryan Rathbone and Brendon Dangar. They are both talented, determined and creative programmers and that determination fits with the ARN culture we’ve developed over the past 18 months. We’re in this game to play and play well. We’re not sitting on the sidelines anymore, simple as that.


Brisbane is a notoriously tight market, however 97.3 have been very successful. What is it about 97.3 that is connecting so well with Brisbane?

Last year we invested very heavily in researching all our markets and the music that we play and we’re continuing to do that this year as well. You’ve got to have the right music for the other elements to work to their full potential. We knew we had a strong breakfast show in Robin, Terry and Bob and we worked with them a lot last year on their content to make them even stronger which has paid dividends. So with 97.3 you have a music format that is well targeted and positioned and a breakfast show very focused on what they need to do to be successful. 97.3 has also been very consistent throughout 2011 when change was happening on the other stations and that’s helped us as well.


Let's talk Melbourne. Late last year ARN got caned in the press by the removal of Grubby and Dee Dee, with many suggesting it was a decision made by Sydney people. The reality was that they had been well under station average for some time, but for whatever reason the reporting was scathing of ARN. Would you handle the release and treatment of the removal differently if you had your time again?

I think ‘caned’ and ‘scathing’ are strong words and I’m not sure I would agree totally with that. There is no doubt that the press was sympathetic to Grubby and Dee Dee after 25 years together and so they should have been. It’s a great achievement. The facts are, that we told them we would not be renewing their contracts and gave them the opportunity to continue on the air for an extra week of farewell shows and they declined. I don’t think that was communicated as well as it could have been but we left on good terms . While they were both disappointed by our decision both Grubby and Dee Dee shook my hand before they left the building.

Cruise in Adelaide is the quiet achiever. It doesn't get headlines, but it consistently performs. What is the secret?

We’re very happy with Cruise and we’re currently sitting well above 2011 averages for share, cume and TSL which is a positive result as we head into 2012. The secret, if it is in fact a secret, is a clear point of difference and a consistent music product.


You have worked in the UK and Scotland. What are the key differences between Australian radio, and those markets?

Well despite any difference the principles of radio remain the same of course. The big difference is the culture so you need to run ideas, content etc past the cultural filter. In terms of the industry the significant difference is the dominance of the BBC. It’s hard to imagine for Australians but Radio 1, which is the UK equivalent of JJJ, has a budget of 20 odd million pounds a year. Imagine competing against a station like that with that sort of money to play with? What it means is they can hire the best talent, create killer shows and they can do the big event and stunts that really get listeners attention. It significantly changes the game for the commercial operators and they have had to adapt the best they can over the years. What makes it even more difficult is when Radio 1 targets the audience commercial radio wants the most.

Outside of the ARN stations, what is a station you rate highly in Australia and why?

I’d have to say 2DAY-FM. I’m a huge believer in consistency and they have been very consistent over the years. They also create an energy that comes out of the speakers and they do some interesting and entertaining content which fits the brand and their strategy very well. You have to admire them for that.

Describe your perfect weekend?

Taking time out really. I enjoy riding through centennial park as it clears the head, swimming at the beach as well as Sydney has some of the best beaches in the world and most importantly spending time with friends and family. Weekends are not very rock & roll for me these days but that suits me just fine.


Who would play you in a movie?

To be honest I’m not a terribly good actor so I doubt I’d ever be cast in a movie. I prefer real life anyway, it’s much more interesting and entertaining don’t you think?

Hypothetically If a Nielsen rep came to your front door handing out a survey diary, would you accept it?

In all my time in radio now one has every knocked on my door with a survey diary but if they did I’d accept it.

Finish this sentence. The success of the Australian Radio Network in 2012 will be primarily driven by……….

The success of our breakfast shows. We’ve laid good solid foundations for all our stations and now it’s about content, driven primarily through breakfast. That’s what the content directors are focussed on and know they have to deliver on.

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