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Greg James: An advertiser's secret weapon

As advertisers, we all know that keeping up with popular culture is essential to building the right comms for brands. But with an endless supply of ad mags, LinkedIn influencers (lol), and trend reports, it can be hard to keep track of popular culture in its simplest form. The kind of culture that is spoken about in pubs, universities and offices from Bournemouth to Bangor. Not kept to the confinements of London or our agencies. 


That's where Greg James comes in.


The BBC Radio 1 Breakfast DJ is a national treasure, and not just because he's a great guy who adores his chocolate Labrador. He also has a knack for keeping popular culture simple, down-to-earth, and relevant. Here are a few things, I think, we as advertisers can learn from Greg James.


1. Filter the best of social


Greg once said, "Internet culture is just culture," and I couldn't agree more. He knows how to filter through the onslaught of useless crap to bring the best of the internet into his show in a natural way. From his known love of the UK's tallest duck, Long Boi, to using a hilarious clip of Greg Wallace shouting "Fire them up, let's go!" to kickstart the morning show. Every day he has the innate ability to bring the best and funniest moments of the internet into the conversation. 


When using popular culture in advertising it's important to do the same. Don't just jump on every bandwagon or use every TikTok sound. Instead, focus on finding the things that are truly relevant to your brand and audience.


2. Normalise celebrities and talent


We all love to see our favourite celebrities in content and ads, but it's important to remember that people often just want to see celebs being themselves. Greg James and the Radio 1 team are great at bringing celebs down to earth and letting them be their authentic selves.


For example, having Tom Holland FaceTime Stormzy in their iconic game "Sit Down, Stand Up." Or having Julia Fox demonstrate how she gets to sleep each night by using a hair dryer. When incorporating celebrities in your advertising, make sure to give them the freedom to be themselves. People will be able to tell if they're being fake, and it will turn them off.


3. Match the tone of the nation


Tone of voice is so important in advertising, especially now that the internet and social media have democratized the way we communicate. Authentic voices are the ones that are championed, recognized, and most importantly, not ridiculed. The comment section can be a cruel place for any social media manager.


Greg James is a master of matching the tone of the nation. He balances silliness and seriousness perfectly. He aims to be silly most of the time and serious only when necessary. But most importantly, he's always genuine and always vulnerable. It's important to match the tone of your audience. Don't be afraid to be silly and irreverent. 




If you're ever stuck questioning how to ground your idea or campaign in broad popular culture, turn on BBC Radio 1 and give Greg James and Co a listen. You might just get inspired.


Some extra tidbits for ya


Be timely. Don't try to use popular culture references that are already old news. Instead, focus on the things that people are talking about right now.


Be relevant. Don't just use popular culture references for the sake of it. Make sure they're relevant to your brand and audience.


Be authentic. People can tell when you're being fake. So, be yourself and let your personality shine through.

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