Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Operation Bullseye: the adventures of Dave and Sue

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on January 7, 2007

Meet Dave and Sue. You’ve probably never heard of either of them, but I’ve discovered them this week on my work placement at the Beeb…and they’re apparently the most important couple in local radio.

Both in their mid fifties, Dave is a self employed plumber and Sue is a school secretary. They’re divorcees with grown up children, who shop at Asda and wear casual clothes. They’re not interested in high culture and politics; for them the world is a depressing place and when they listen to the radio they want to hear “something that will cheer them up and make them laugh.”

Dave and Sue are the result of “Operation Bullseye” launched by the BBC to focus their local radio output. Managers — in true BBC style — invented the couple to give their staff someone to picture in their head when they brainstorm; they’ve even produced photographs for producers to keep on their desks.

For New Statesman writer David Self, Dave and Sue are a monstrosity that demonstrate the dumming down of BBC output.

“This practice of targeting a profiled listener is lifted directly from commercial radio…For the BBC to follow suit is proof that its primary aim is success in a commercial market.”

In my first week with BBC local radio Dave and Sue crop up regularly in discussions; everyone I’ve spoken to there says that they’re a good thing. Personifying the target audience helps producers and reporters get to grips with who they’re supposed to be talking to and it means the stations output is more focussed.

And if you think that many of the people who work in BBC local radio – a large proportion young, mobile and ambitious – are not like Dave and Sue, personifying the audience is crucial…otherwise output would be all over the place.

Official photographs of Dave and Sue aren’t available online, but a quick google search digs up some of these truly scary characters. I wonder if the real Dave and Sue could be one of this lot…

The Dave n Sue collection

The Dave n Sue collection

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5 Responses

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  1. Jimmy said, on January 8, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    Don’t even get me started on Dave and Sue.

    *Gets started, deletes what he’s written, calls it a day.

    Rant averted.

  2. Dave Sheffield said, on January 9, 2007 at 9:16 am

    Quite what the guy in the top left has won – your guess is as good as mine.

    The woman in the top right looks most like a Sue (bottom right is the most Dave like).

    I’m sure i have a t-shirt like the guy in the top centre.

  3. Andrew said, on January 9, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    I once heard Alan Edmunds, editor of the Western Mail, give a talk about the imaginary core readers they’d paid some market researchers to knock up – they were called something like Dave and Jane, had two kids called Gwynneth and Rhys, drove a people carrier. I think they basically liked their news inoffensive

    I can’t get the RSS feed on your site to work – my fault or yours?

  4. Emmanuel.K.Bensah said, on January 23, 2007 at 9:01 am

    Adam, Happy New Year!!! May all the good winds of fate come blowing your way in the most positive of ways!!!;-))

    You’ve really gotta give it to Auntie Beeb for spawning something like this: personifying an audience might sound ludicrous, but I think it’s a testament of the innovativeness of the corporation in making a difference in the news it produces….can’t always say other news outlets make that attempt, can we??

  5. Captain Webb said, on May 11, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Aaaaarrrrgghhhh! I’m with Jimmy on this one – don’t get me started on the philistines who invented Dave ‘n’ Sue at, god knows what cost to the licence-payer. Just how far and how fast can we plunge down-market to appeal to these cretins? Loed Reith must be nauseous by now listening to the desperate efforts to “inform” and “entertain”. Whatever happened to “educate”?

    Alan Johnston – my thoughts are with you and your family.


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