December 27, 2018
Welcome to JJ-365 Salutes. Over 2018 we pay tribute daily to one of “The Good Ones.” Today we are shining the light on Ronnie Stanton.
“He came, he saw, he conquered, he went back home…”
Ronnie’s bio says: “Finding success on two continents, from the explosive launches of Nova 100 Melbourne and Virgin Radio Vancouver, to his international acclaim for Programming, Music Direction, Promotional Concepts and Morning Shows, Ronnie Stanton is a unique radio professional.”
You got that right mate!
We first said hi in the mid 2K’s when he contacted me from Australia to get the ‘connect’ on Canadian radio. We sparked up a relationship that continues today. I’m pretty proud of him and have seen, like most of us have, what he can do and what he has done. I didn’t like it so much when he was across the street kicking Vancouver radio ass, including ours!
As a wee baby radio ‘roo’ Ronnie grew up north of Brisbane in Australia. Like most radio situations on the radio planet Ronnie started in the small markets with his first stop being the outback in a Western Queensland station in the mid 90’s. Ronnie quickly moved through medium size markets to a Group APD role after only four years in the business.
Hot FM Townsville won both the A25-39 and A18-34 target demographics for the first time ever under his stewardship.
He moved to Melbourne with DMG in 2001 to launch the new frequency of ‘Nova 100’ as APD / Music Director and helped catapult the station to number 1 in just 15 weeks with a redefined approach to Top 40.
From there, Ronnie revitalized heritage stations KRock and Bay FM in Geelong before moving home to bring on the juggernaut ‘Hot 91’ on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. While there, he also flipped sister station ‘The Heat’ to ‘Zinc 96’ (adult rock) and grew audiences for PRIME’s 12 station network for 3 years. Also, on the Sunshine Coast, in 2005 his very successful brekkie show ‘Chrissie and Ronnie’ won an ACRA National award (Aussie equivalent to Canadian Music Week awards) for Best On-Air Team, rated number 1 (A25-54) with a share larger than the number 2, 3 and 4 shows combined. They dominated the market for half a decade.
In 2006 he was getting noticed country wide for his programming being named Australian Content Director of the year by industry magazine ‘The Music Network’ and being an ACRA finalist for Best PD in 2006 and 2007.
Ronnie decided to check into Canada around the mid-2000’s. He really wanted to come to Canada after visiting the Canada pavilion at Expo 88 in Brisbane.
Aussie’s have a long enchantment with their Canadian cousins and vice versa. As we speak you can run into an Aussie at pretty much anytime on the west coast of Canada, especially around the gorgeous B.C. ski hills and mountains. It’s a right of passage.
Ronnie is not shy. As a matter of fact, social networking is like oxygen for this gregarious, fun and adventurous lad.
I was one of the ones he reached out to and we started to build a relationship. In our interactions I gave him my perspective and advice and we talked about possibly working together. I was running CORUS Vancouver at the time and had him in my local and national talent banks. I had discussions with higher ups in CORUS about bringing him into the country but got push-back about how difficult and expensive that might be.
Ronnie applied for a few jobs, until Brad Phillips hired him for Virgin Vancouver in 2008. He moved to North America joining Astral Media Canada as Operations Manager and PD of the country’s second ‘Virgin Radio’ station under the legendary call letters ‘CKZZ’. Brad and Ronnie had skyped lots, chatted for hours on the phone, but didn’t actually meet until he arrived: “In retrospect it feels like a crazy courageous thing to do for both of us. But it was a magic partnership immediately – and still is today.”
It only took under a year for the Virgin to reach the number 1 position in its target demographic F25-44 and one more to own A25-54 as well.
I remember the phone call from him letting me know that Brad Phillips and ASTRAL got there first and the rest as they say, is history in Canada. We kept up our relationship and he was so hot in the industry that if I called at a time he was around his teammates, I would be accused of trying to steal him and chuckled to myself. “JJ, we were there when you called, can you not try to hire him at more discreet times?” said his co-workers to me. Truth is they were personal calls. I knew that in terms of hiring Ronnie, that ship had sailed.
In terms of his naturalization to Canada there were some times…. “I was in Kelowna having dinner with a bunch of people from Astral and Don Shafer in a small restaurant. Another large table near us was celebrating a birthday and as the cake came out from the kitchen they started singing Happy birthday. In Australia immediately after that song is sung, someone yells ‘hip hip’ and everyone else says ‘hooray’ 3 times. In Canada we do not. But in Kelowna that day I did. I silenced the restaurant. And had every set of eyes on the new kid Aussie with looks of ‘huh?’”
They did many crazy ‘word-of-mouth’ generating things over there at Virgin. The tone was set at the launch of the Virgin Radio that featured ‘the naked man’. Yep, all of us at the party and one completely starkers young lad hanging with the rest. There were many that talked to him that night, all trying to retain eye-to-eye contact. After awhile you didn’t notice so much that he didn’t have a stitch on.
One of the first promotions they did at Virgin after he got there was ‘Heads or Tails’ the radio contest with consequences ‘win big / lose big’. They crushed listeners cars, jack-hammered kids toys and torched wedding dresses. Once they led a herd of cattle through listener houses.
He says Brad got several grey hairs during this time and would say to him over and over, “I get it, we’re making noise. But for god sake, just don’t kill anyone!”
One of his highlights during his time at ASTRAL with the Virgin Brands was picking up Sir Richard from his private jet on a cold night in Winnipeg, having nachos at a pub and then turning on Virgin Radio the next day.
In 2011, he expanded his role with ASTRAL, to become the Head of Programming for all of Canada’s Virgin Radio stations. Those properties grew to number 1 in 5 of the 7 markets.
Re-enter Brad Phillips who was now with CORUS Entertainment (replacing me at my strong recommendation) who brought him over to be the PD of ROCK 101 and CFOX where soon VP – Radio Programming also became part of his duties. He oversaw all 39 of their stations across Canada including News / Talk, Top 40, AC, Hot AC, Country, Classic Rock, Classic Hits and Rock Variety. In 3 years, his teams grew audiences across the board, taking their percentage of stations ranked Top 5 in their market from 25% to 69%.
One of proudest moments with ROCK 101 goes like this: “Dad always taught me to ask the prettiest girl out on a date, she is so pretty most people just don’t ask he would say. That’s kind of what happened with Rock 101’s name change to ‘U2 101’ for the day and having the band in to co-host with 365’er Willy Percy on the day of their world tour kickoff concert. Paul Jessop from Universal loved the brazen suggestion and asked U2’s management, I mean what the hell eh? The band loved the idea and said yes!
By the way, during my first watch with the FOX, there was a massive convention for the disabled in Victoria. Hundreds converged on the event including Larry Hennessey and Willy Percy in wheelchairs. The late and great Bruce Davidsen put this together, where Larry and Willy each lived in a wheelchair for the weekend. Before they boarded the Air Canada flight later on their first night, they started off the weekend by going, wheelchair bound, to the U2 concert in Vancouver. They were in the same hotel that U2 was in and imagine their surprise when the elevator stopped at a floor and in jumped the band. They had a quick conversation and let the band know hat they were doing. I was at the concert that night to hear Bono say hi to Larry and Willy and pat them on the back. Some of the best radio I have ever heard resulted from that L & W’s wheelchair weekend.
Ronnie says one of his favourite moments still, is the day CFOX went #1 A25-54. “We worked so hard at re-imaging that brand and widening the rock offering to be accessible, humorous and engaging 24/7. It had gotten tired, dark and overly young male focused and the brand change to ‘World Famous’, the era and texture changes to the music and the addition of rich personality offerings and comedy really worked out. Such a great thrill.”
Another favourite for him was subjecting Ottawa to 4 days of whale songs before the launch of JUMP!
By the way as well as his full-time roles, Ronnie worked for the Randy Lane Company part-time for 5 years, as a mentor and coach for morning shows across the USA with the award-winning consulting group. He left that role in 2015 to concentrate on the growth of his own consulting company Ronnie Stanton Media.
The U.S. was calling at the same time a thrust of wanderlust came over Ronnie. The U.S. hands-on was something Ronnie always wanted to do so he moved to California in 2016 to join U.S. media group, Alpha Media, as VP Programming leading over 90 stations across the country and operating as the local PD for their San Jose cluster.
Ronnie was missing his mum and now started thinking about going back to his native land. I connect with this because when I was running CORUS Vancouver, I knew my mum needed me around, so I talked to CORUS about moving me east which they did to run the five Ontario East markets.
My mum passed away two years after my return so at least I had that time with her before she left to be reunited with my dad and wonderful relatives who have passed on.
So, in 2018, Ronnie moved home to Australia to take the Regional Content Director role for Grant Broadcasters. Today his consulting company Ronnie Stanton Media serves clients like CORUS Entertainment, ALPHA Media USA and FLY FM Malaysia.
Funny now that Ronnie and I are once again competing, this time on his turf in a few Aussie markets where my firm JJ-IMS INC. consults.
Ronnie has been sought after on the convention circuit having been a speaker and or panelist at many including Engagements Radio Asia Kazikstan, the Arbitron Client Conference, The Conclave (where he also served on their board of directors) and multiple Canadian Music Week appearances.
Awards are aplenty including multiple CMW Radio nominations and Awards for Promotion of the year, Station of the Year, Program Director of the year (2014 winner), International PD of the Year, and many other awards like the Contest / Promotion category at the New York Festival World Radio Awards, and back home as winner of Best On Air Team at Winner of Best Music Director at the Aussie ACRA awards.
He is a dual citizen of Australia and Canada, and at any given time you can see him driving his motorcycle (all year round there) or taking to the air as he has his Private Pilot Status. He is married to Sarah and they are living the life down under.
Important people for Ronnie. Many of course but standing out are Brad Phillips who he says took the punt and hired a guy he had never met in person from the other side of the world. His trusted lieutenant and spirit animal Dustin Collins and fellow Beanbag Radio Philosopher 365’er Crosby McWilliam.
Ronnie’s advice is succinct: “Audience focus, flawless execution, be memorable!”
Ronnie asked me recently if I minded him stealing my ‘World Headquarters’ line on my email signature I said ‘go head, I stole that in the first place-?’.
A good bloke this Ronnie Stanton. Larger than life he has heaps of talent, he’s fun, funny, refreshing, creative, resourceful, charming, and is a smart and intuitive leader.
He is another one that got away, meaning that we never did get to work together. But there’s still time mate, there’s still time!
Thank you, Ronnie Stanton being one of “The Good Ones”. Feel free to like and share Ronnie’s positive story. Who is the subject of tomorrow’s JJ-365 Salutes? As they say, stay tuned.
Jim JJ Johnston is the CEO, President and Chief Programmer/Talent/Content Coach for JJIMS INC. and works with talent in many different industries worldwide.