Philip Chadwick: Wogan’s TV rant should inspire not frustrate

This Friday on BBC1, packaging will get it in the neck from a broadcasting legend. But, says Packaging News’ Philip Chadwick, perhaps we need the rants of Wogan to keep designers on their toes

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When I was a lad, the school run was made bearable thanks to Terry Wogan. My mum had every radio in the house permanently tuned to Radio 2, so there was no escaping him every weekday breakfast time. And while it was hardly cutting edge (none of that ‘zoo’ radio) I rather liked the befuddled ramblings from his listeners (known as TOGS – Terry’s Old Geezers). However, the less said about his choice of music the better.

There’s a reason why old Tel (now Sir Terry) showed up on my radar. Last week it was reported that this Friday’s edition of Room 101 will feature Wogan discussing one of his pet hates – packaging that’s difficult to open.

His main target appears to be food and according to the Daily Mail, sardines and pilchards get a rough ride. “You put your finger in the ring thing, dislocate your finger and break your nails,” he says.

Now before the packaging industry rolls its eyes and says “here we go again, more packaging bashing”, Wogan may have a point. Some packs are tricky to break into (as Larry David found) although in the industry’s defence, products do need protection.

It’s an issue that’s not just bothering Wogan. According to a study from tear tape specialist Payne, set to be released in full at next week’s EU Packaging Summit, consumers were more bothered about openability than over-packaging. According to Payne, this response was unprompted.

Designers have a difficult balancing act. On the one hand they do have to make packaging straightforward to open – it can  give the consumer an instant positive experience of a brand. On the flip side, products do need protecting and an ill-fitting cap could cause havoc.

There are plenty of smart brains coming up with some real innovations in this field, creating frustration-free packaging – Crown’s award winning Orbit jam jar lid immediately springs to mind. And Packaging News will be exploring the issue of openability in the February issue, the first of a new series of Consumer IQ features.

Wogan won’t be just targeting food packaging on Friday and gives toothbrush packs a kicking too. “Has anyone tried to break into a toothbrush lately,” he asks. Well, actually I have and found it pretty easy. But then again I’m not 74 and that brings in another issue – openability for those of, ahem, advancing years.

By all means watch Friday’s Room 101 and get annoyed as the focus is again on the negativity of packaging (Wogan’s not the first to highlight this issue on the show – the late comedy legend Peter Cook has been there and done that).

But don’t get too wound up. Wogan’s insights, and that of others, should inspire the industry to make sure that consumers’ relationship with packaging is frustration-free.

Philip Chadwick is features editor at Packaging News. Room 101 is on BBC1 this Friday (11 January) at 8.30pm.



  1. “plenty of smart brains coming up with some real innovations in this field”

    True. Though it’s often the other brains finding all sorts of reasons not to embrace them that may be better targeted.

  2. I would not worry unduly, its entertainment at the end of the day. Packaging comes in a myriad forms and generally is excellent nowadays. Its grumpy old man territory…..

  3. I wholeheartedly agree that we should embrace comment such as this from Wogan, rather than sit back and see yet more packaging bashing. It highlights the frustrations that many have with our industry’s products, but through this it also shows the opportunity that we have to improve things by meeting this consumer need and avoid pack frustration.

    Brand owners can use pack opening and functionality improvements as a means to add real value to their products and it is interesting to see a number of manufacturers and packaging companies really beginning to build on this theme.

  4. At Christmas I saw two instances of my parents opening packaged products with a knife! one being a heat sealed packet of pitta breads. Packaging needs to protect the product, but you need to be able to get into it safely!

  5. I was on work experience with Siebert Head in 1988 and they were mocking up the first tear strip McVitie’s biscuit packs – a real innovation that would make the packs easier to open! I still struggle with their tear strips some 24 years later.

    The industry has to look at consumers’ experiences of using packs and pick the meat from the hyperbole.

  6. Openability continues to be an important issue and our latest research supports Terry Wogan’s view that difficulties in opening different types of packs are of far greater concern to most consumers than any other issues, such as perceived over-packaging. It’s also clear from the research that functionality is a major part of what consumers consider to be good packaging.

    There are significant opportunities available for brands to resolve many of the typical consumer’s packaging frustrations, as well as adding value and enhancing brand image, by taking advantage of packaging solutions that focus on opening, closing, informing and protecting.

    We’ll be announcing more detail of our research at the EU Packaging Summit in Berlin on Monday 14th Jan.

  7. Adding extra functionality to packaging must add value to the product in the eyes of the end-consumer. Surely it makes commercial sense to make more use of re-seal/easy open features?

    There are some significant developments in flexible packaging which have been designed with this in mind. They don’t even need to have any modifications to the existing packaging machinery! They are available now – but as suppliers we have to battle against inertia and reluctance on the part of manufacturers/packers/retailers in order to get them into the hands of the consumers.

  8. Andy Kilfoyle - Selection Group

    Razor Blade Packaging is a nightmare.

  9. Even worse Terry Wogan wasn’t even funny despite it all being carefully rehearsed & Phil Tufnell has never been funny only when bowling his pies!