Robbie Williams fronts Smooth FM’s national marketing push

Nova Entertainment’s Smooth FM will launch a renewed marketing push, fronted by British pop star Robbie Williams.

Both chief programming and marketing officer Paul Jackson and chief commercial officer Peter Charlton said it was a calendar coincidence, rather than a commercial consideration, that the rebrand was launching on Valentine’s Day.

Williams replaces Canadian crooner Michael Bublé who has fronted Smooth’s local campaigns for almost a decade.

Jackson said consumers wouldn’t miss Bublé as he remained a core part of the Smooth family, and his ‘records’ would continue on high circulation on the station.

Williams, he said, made sense for this marketing push, as his own journey to maturity has coincided with the evolution of Smooth.

“He has evolved in the last few years, has a couple of kids and a fantastic wife, and is making some great records and [he’s] matured. He’s a man clearly at ease with himself, and beyond that, I think the person that he is – effervescently youthful and fun and lighthearted, he’s cheeky and charming and liked by everybody – we’ve kind of grown up with him, so we have that great feel for him,” Jackson told Mumbrella.

So, Jackson said, Williams is the artist who now best fits Smooth’s positioning, tone and evolution.

When Smooth launched in 2012, it was all about relaxing, said Jackson, but it’s evolved to become a place about feeling good, which needed to be reflected in market.

“Over the years, as the tone of the station’s evolved and we’ve freshened it up, ‘Feel Good’ has been the dominant position. It’s a station that when you turn it on, we want you to bop along, sing along, and that will leave you in a happier mood. So our tone has really changed as well to be much more upbeat. So I think the alignment is absolutely there now [with Williams].”

And, according to Jackson, getting Williams across the line for the campaign was not too difficult.

“It was one of those fortuitous moments… That’s the way it goes. If the artist is unsure, and you’re too-ing and fro-ing, it tends not to happen. You tend to find out pretty quickly if they’re up for it or not.”

The TVCs were directed by British music video and television commercial director Vaughan Arnell, and was shot in London with in-house creative. Arnell has previously directed music videos for Williams including Angels, Rock DJ and Let Me Entertain You.

The campaign will be supported by digital, out of home, cinema and socials.

The station is also unveiling a refreshed logo, which Jackson said would better reflect the station’s proposition.

Smooth’s old ‘retro’ logo

“The one thing we hadn’t got right was the logo for the radio station,” Jackson said. “We saw with some research that brown and orange together, kitsch as it is, is just a bit retro, a bit too ’70s, but ultimately made people feel a bit old. So that was the only thing we got back that was not quite the right alignment for the station,” he said.

“So that’s when we just paused, took a breath and thought we need to just update the look and feel of that, but not move away from who we are.”

In conducting research around the rebrand, Jackson said he was shocked about the negative sentiment towards Smooth’s logo.

“About 18 months ago, we did these research groups, first in Melbourne, then in Sydney. And every single group, the same thing happened, whether it was a core listener or a non-core listener. They’d say ‘I’m not sure why we’re here doing research for Smooth. We don’t want you to change anything. It’s perfect as it is’. So their overriding panic was ‘Are you going to be changing things?’

“And then within that, everybody went ‘But you can change the logo, because that doesn’t fit’. It wasn’t a surprise to us. We’d talked about it [but] it was a surprise quite how powerfully negative it was… There’s a misalignment. It’s the one thing we do that clearly makes people feel old. You don’t look at that brand and go ‘That’s for me’, because of the colours… [The old logo] doesn’t fit the current iteration of Smooth that we’ve evolved to.”


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