Parents everywhere have been digesting the big news this week that Yellow Wiggle Sam Moran is being replaced by original Yellow Wiggle Greg Page. The media frenzy has been, as expected, frenzied. But as the muck gets raked and details sifted, I can’t help but wonder if this whole badly managed PR saga will mark the beginning of the end. Let’s explore…
The initial statement was too abrupt, a clinical declaration that Greg Page was returning, replacing Sam Moran who ‘graciously offered’ to step aside, according to early reports. However, as the day wore on murky details emerged about the nature of Sam’s dismissal.
He was allegedly called in on his daughter’s birthday, with no notice of the meeting, and told his contract would not be renewed. There was no emotional handing over of the yellow skivvy, as there was with Greg Page’s departure. No gentle explanation for children that their beloved Sam would be replaced by the unknown (to current five-year-olds) Greg.
And then the round of media interviews began. Greg Page fronted ACA that night and when asked what Sam would do now, admitted he had no idea.
Some people would say, “Fair enough”. After all, when you take on a new job you very rarely have any clue what your predecessor has moved onto.
However, the Wiggles present themselves as a close-knit family. I’ve been to many Wiggles concerts and the program guides all contain detailed information about every member of the entourage. When Greg admits he hasn’t spoken to Sam since he was dismissed and has no idea what he’ll go on to do now it seems cold and self-centered. In addition, mums and dads and their kids are emotionally invested in each and every member of the Wiggles. So when one is leaving we want to know what our friend is going to do. For the Wiggles to not have Sam front and centre of this story to present the image that all was well has been a damaging mis-step.
The spin machine lurched from bad to worse with the media interviews. The more Team Wiggle tried to dig themselves out of the ditch, the worse things got. Sam was referred to as a ‘hired hand’ by Blue Wiggle Anthony in a Today show interview. Parents were aghast. To us, referring to Sam as an employee is rude, even if it is true. He’s a member of the Wiggle family. Anthony Field issued an instant clarification via Facebook:
“Firstly, I didn’t actually call Sam a ‘hired hand’, that was the question posed to me, but I do see how me agreeing with the question could have appeared insensitive.”
The transcript went like this:
- Richard Wilkins: He was a hired hand.
- Anthony: Yes, that’s right.
Cue shocked gasps from mums, dads and kids who love Sam.
And so the nightmare went on. News reports revealed that while Greg Page got paid out $20million when he left the group, thus ending all his ownership and royalties rights, Sam, the hired hand got paid out $60,000. The Herald Sun reported that Sam was mocked behind his back as ‘the salaried Wiggle’ and was kept out of the loop as plans were made to bring Greg Page back. None of the Wiggles, including Greg, have had any contact with Sam since his sacking. He apparently wasn’t even accorded a farewell. No goodbye drinks, no warm well-wishes from the entire Wiggles team. Nada.
Anthony tried to put the Wiggles on a better footing, painting the group as “generous” for including Sam on co-writing royalties for all songs written while Sam was in the group, even though, in reality he only wrote “about three songs”. But all he succeeded in doing was bringing the money back to the headlines.
We’ve learned that Greg won’t be back as a shareholder in the group, but is on the same contract Sam was on when he left, making Greg the new ‘salaried Wiggle’. Parents know The Wiggles are a brand, and very big business, but to delve into this side of it is grubby and unattractive. It’s a little too close to our kids and we’re starting to catch on that we’re the cash cows generating the $30million a year income.
Then there was this diabolical TV interview with Richard Wilkins on the Today show. How the Blue Wiggle has got this far in his media career and still handle this so badly is mind boggling. (And a superb job from Wilkins).
For my money, Sam Moran, the Yellow Wiggle, added much needed youth and vitality to the Wiggles. He was a far superior singer to Greg Page and far more charismatic. Mums adore him (and recall fondly, years later, his a cappella Twinkle Twinkle Little Star which was blissful). This reversion to an older Wiggle member is a step in the wrong direction, a step backwards. Instead, they should be transitioning themselves all off stage left. They’re old. They will always be the owners and will always enjoy massive royalties income – that is Anthony Field, Murray Cook, and Jeff Fatt. Greg Page was paid out and is no longer an owner or shareholder. They need to staff the Wiggles entirely with salaried employees. Like Hi5 does. Every couple of years bring in a new, younger Wiggle until we’ve got a revitalised brand, and rejuvenated band of younger entertainers. At some point, having 50-year-old men entertain our kids starts to get a little uncomfortable.
I think this is a watershed moment in the career of The Wiggles and a period of turmoil will ensue for a few years until eventually they introduce succession plans. Or the brand will die.