ANALYSIS: Getting to know Jack - will this week's ratings confirm trend?

by David Bray

"IF YOU HAVEN'T HEARD about the new station in town, you don't know Jack". On September 10, Rogers Radio VIP's rolled out the red carpet at head office, inviting advertisers to a presentation on their new "Jack" format which has been making waves in Vancouver and Toronto.

As you might expect from a station named "Jack", the tone was tastefully irreverent and consistently playful. The crowd was treated to packages of Cracker Jack, a life sized poster of a Jack Ass, Jack-in –the-Box TV creative and a series of one liners from the programming team - all topped off by a look at some serious ratings results and projections.

Leading the way was Sandy Sanderson, executive vice-president of programming for Rogers nationally. He described how, approximately eight months ago, he and his team decided to revive an ailing A/C franchise in Vancouver with a dramatic change in sound. The playlist, which is three times normal size, boasts an eclectic mix of pop from the '80s, '90s and beyond. The station proudly rejects listener requests and concentrates on "playing what we want".

Results were immediate and dramatic with the station jumping from 4.3% share of hours tuned (A12+) in Fall '02 to a 10.7% share in Spring '03. The female/male split is 51%/49% and the age emphasis is on the lucrative 25 to 54 demo.

But before there was Jack, there was Bob. The recent trend (I'm still waiting for Tom, Dick and Harry) began in Winnipeg with a CHUM owned station that flipped to an "80s, '90s and whatever" format positioned with the moniker Bob. The results were impressive and the audience, for the most part, seems to be sticking around. In the Spring '03 BBM, the station delivered an excellent 16.0% share of hours tuned for A25-54. CHUM has, in turn, flipped their Ottawa station KOOL-FM to BOB and are anxiously awaiting Wednesday's Summer BBM figures.

The Rogers team adopted the new concept, renamed their new-born Jack, and encouraged even more irreverence. In fact Rogers, was so pleased, they ultimately repeated the experiment in Calgary, Toronto and most recently, Orillia.

The June 4 launch of Jack-FM in Toronto took place ahead of schedule. After hearing talk of a competitor adopting the format, v-p of Rogers Toronto Radio Operations Chuck McCoy spun CHR station CISS92 around completely in a dizzying 27 hours. To date, the station is basically without DJs, leaning on a distinctive series of splitters to maintain the flow and deliver the image. Two notable exceptions involved having Dan Ackroyd and Meatloaf each serve as guest hosts for an afternoon.

As a reward for his valuable contribution in Vancouver, program director of the original incarnation of Jack, Pat Cardinal, was brought in last week to head up the Toronto operation as general manager and p.d. Cardinal is remembered in T.O. as the man who brought Howard Stern to Q107. He likens Jack to 7-Up, and its breakthrough campaign as the UnCola. He proudly points to Jack-FM as the unradio station with a format that breaks all of the programming rules and is rewarded with a loyal audience looking for a fresh approach.

Jack-FM's sales team, headed up by Lannie Atkins, have crunched the numbers and are promising to steal 20% to 25% of the A25 to 54 ratings from each of CHUM-FM, MIX99.9, Q107, EZRock 97.3 and the Edge 102.1. Whether or not that's too tall of an order may reveal itself with the release this week of the Summer BBM.

At the very least Jack is giving the market a kick in the ass. Stay tuned and listen for some additional format shifts as everyone jockeys for position. After all, where there is Jack and Bob (and now in Cambridge, Corus's Dave), can Lauren or Stephanie be far behind?

David Bray is senior vice-president of Hennessy & Bray Communications. Contact him at (416)431-5792; fax: (416)431-0168;;

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