The national institution that is Richard and Judy has been British TV’s most sacred cow since the husband-and-wife duo first settled onto This Morning’s sofa in 1988.
Despite the arrest (and later acquittal) of Richard for allegedly shoplifting champagne in 1990, his more recent embarrassing Ali G impression, and Judy exposing her brassiere at the National Television Awards, Madeley and Finnigan have remained our most influential daytime chat-show hosts.
With the latest series of their hour-long show – Richard & Judy, on Channel 4 each weekday at 5pm – kicking off last week, and this week’s exclusive interview with JK Rowling, their power shows no signs of waning.
The ongoing success of the Richard & Judy Book Club and last year’s Wine Club also shows their importance to sections of the PR industry is on the up.
‘We regularly check how products that have appeared on the show are doing on Amazon,’ says Richard & Judy executive producer Amanda Ross. ‘Inevitably, within two hours of appearing on the show, a book will be at the top of the charts.’
Madeley and Finnigan first met in 1982, working for Granada Television, and have become influential because their audience seems to genuinely trust their opinion. Pulling in around 2.6 million viewers every weekday at 5pm is no mean feat. Taylor Herring MD James Herring, who is the couple’s personal publicist, describes them as ‘incredibly hard-working – real professionals’.
Ross says the audience comprises ‘46 per cent ABC1s, including many over-50s with a large disposable income, and a cult student following’. Many of the latter will make snap purchasing decisions based solely on what they have seen on the show, she adds.
The success of the show could lie in Richard and Judy’s close involvement in what makes it on-screen.
Anything that appears on the show is ultimately the pair’s choice – they work as executive producers alongside Ross and her husband, Simon.
‘Richard and Judy have become a bit of an institution in this country,’ says Christine Bryan, partner at fashion agency Bryan Morel. ‘Excellent viewing figures make their show a great vehicle for promoting clients.’
And, according to Ross, the show does not consider itself to have any direct competitors.
‘A BBC Breakfast book review will last three minutes. We’ll give it more than ten,’ says Ross. ‘We don’t generally follow stories that other programmes have done already, although Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, which has a different target audience, is one exception.’
Being such an established partnership, it comes as no surprise that the show has an efficient production system. Under the executive team of four sit two editors, three planning teams and revolving daily production teams. The planning teams are split into a forward-planning division, which should be the first port of call for PROs. A dedicated division operates the Book Club, while a celebrity-booking team operates across all the programmes of production company Cactus, including celebrity chef show Saturday Kitchen (see box).
‘If PROs come to us with something more relevant for Saturday Kitchen then we’ll point them towards that show instead,’ says Ross. ‘As a rule, though, a celebrity with a good story will always have the best chance of making the show.’
Emily Taylor, account director at Attenborough Saffron, agrees: ‘Anything that slots into the news agenda, coupled with celebrity presence, will have a good chance of getting on.’
The Richard & Judy team prides itself in giving celebrities a fair hearing: if they’re on the show with the primary aim of plugging a certain product or charity, they will get their chance to do so. ‘We choose the subjects carefully, though – no one gets a free plug if it’s not interesting to the viewers,’ explains Ross.
Ofcom, of course, closely monitors the show, so some products need to be compared against others.
‘We have to be responsible and not to be seen pushing something unless it has genuine editorial value,’ says Ross. ‘PROs should try to come up with an innovative way in which we can demonstrate whatever it is they’re promoting. Nine times out of ten we end up using the production team’s idea, but it’s lovely when PROs think about it instead. Usually they don’t.’
Ross advises PR practitioners to think about ‘five interesting things’ about the product or person they are trying to get on the show. Gadgets, she says, always go down particularly well. She adds: ‘The weird and wonderful also get a good look-in.’
For the Book Club, Ross says the team prefer submissions directly from publishing houses, although self-published volumes are accepted. The accompanying synopsis must be concise – but not a reproduction of the blurb on the back of the book – and should contain detail on the story.
The Wine Club is slightly different to most items, in that Richard and Judy taste the wines for the first time live on-air. The chosen wine is dictated by that week’s guest expert.
‘It’s important to maintain a relationship with the wine experts who go on the show. As they change so frequently it can be tough to keep on top of them,’ says Westbury Communications associate director Sally Bishop.
According to Ross, the show’s producers are genuinely open to anything so long as it is interesting, stimulates discussion – and is suitable for a family audience.
Richard & Judy: what PROs need to know
The programme is produced by Cactus Television, which is also responsible for Saturday Kitchen. Three teams work on Richard & Judy:
- Celebrity Booking is run by head of entertainment Sinead Oldnall – firstname.lastname@example.org. The team prefers celebrities ‘to have a genuine story to tell’ and works across Cactus Television’s productions, so may advise that your client appears on a different programme.
- Forward planning is overseen by head of forward planning Gareth Jones – email@example.com. Likes items related to current news agenda.
- Richard & Judy Book Club: contact Natalie Fox – natalie.fox @cactustv.co.uk. Prefers contact directly from publishers. Requires a synopsis because books will be judged on this initially.
Cactus Television’s switchboard can be reached on 020 7091 4900.