Sky's in-house creative agency has been tasked with developing all of the broadcaster's Christmas marketing materials for the first time, a testament to its growing faith in internal talent. This includes its debut campaign for Sky Cinema and a Sky Sports festive football spot starring Eden Hazard.
With Sky Creative Agency being one of the UK's largest in-house agencies, boasting more than 300 staff members (around one-third freelancers at any one time), it has been granted an increased role in developing Sky's marketing materials for its owned properties.
Simon Buglione, managing director of Sky Creative Agency (SCA), told The Drum why the agency is delivering more Christmas content than ever before for Sky.
"There’s always been a significant amount of Christmas output from Sky, but this is the first time that SCA has delivered all of Sky’s Christmas content marketing. The fact that Sky Creative Agency was given the campaign is testament to the standard of work that we are now delivering."
Beyond ad spots, the campaigns also need to run digitally and on-demand, adding to the slew of materials the group must create. Additionally, it had to make sure it was in sync and consistent with the work being put out by external agencies like Mother (TV), WCRS (broadband and mobile) and Brothers & Sisters (Sky VIP) after a recent review.
The Sky Creative Agency is charged with delivering work that can promote channels and content series like the Benedict Cumberbatch vehicle Patrick Melrose. For the Melrose project, SCA elected to have Cumberbatch sit in a cold bath for 90 minutes until the team got the perfect composition of shots to promote the show.
Buglione said: "Our core focus has always been on the content side of the business, so channel brands like Sky Original Productions, Sky Sports, Sky News and Sky Sports News. We’ve never been involved in the product side of the business, Sky Q, broadband and mobile. We’ve never been about owning everything and, in actual fact, we welcome the opportunity to collaborate with external agencies wherever necessary on campaigns."
He noted the in-house agency has some advantages over the external firms in some instances. "Our proximity to our marketing clients, commissioners and production companies as well as our knowledge and understanding of Sky’s sub-brands is something that an external agency would be hard pressed to replicate." The fact the SCA is ‘living the brand’ also helps it to deliver consistency across its output.
Nonetheless, a balanced approach can help. Buglione said: "That is not to say that an objective view from the outside is not also an important perspective for the business but certainly in terms of our current portfolio and the fact we are able to offer a mix of advertising, promotion and brand design solutions from a position of inherent understanding, we feel is a significant advantage, particularly in content."
This Christmas the agency's output included the hero film for Sky Cinema and the trailer for Sky Sports' festive football video. For these campaigns, the agency was broadly briefed to "balance the desire to push the boundaries of creativity with the need to deliver against the objectives of the wider Sky business.
"Sky is a customer-first, subscription-led business and we have to ensure that our campaigns and our creative serve a functional purpose not just look great on screen. Sky Cinema and Sky Sports have very different personalities while still being part of the same umbrella brand so it’s important that we listen to our clients and understand their individual needs."
The Sky Cinema Christmas ad was positioned to showcase to both existing customers and potential customers the breadth of movie content available on the channel – and the fact that it is all available on demand. "We were able to show that no matter who you are, or what kind of movie you enjoy, there will be something for you to watch at a time that you want to watch it," Buglione said.
The spot featured a diverse cross-section of British families, each tuning in to a different genre of movie to show that the channels can accommodate a broad range of tastes. It is the first time that Sky Creative Agency has been charged with the task of delivering the Sky Cinema Christmas ad campaign.
Atop this creative, it also created DRTV, radio and out of home materials as well as 30 and 60-second cinema ads. The work runs from 11 November to 28 December.
Meanwhile, "the Festive Football brief was much more straightforward".
SCA creatives Ed Mallin and Will McMullan wrote a script that encapsulates how the festive football schedule looks from the eyes of fans. However, their frosted breaths, hats and scarfs under grey skies may make fans yearn for Sky Sports' output from the comfort of their own homes.
The work illustrates that Sky Sports broadcasts over 40 live football matches over the Christmas period. A meticulous 10-day shoot spanning the UK captured grounds that feature in Sky's coverage.
In 2017, Tottenham forward Harry Kane starred in the work, but this time around it was Chelsea's Eden Hazard who fronted Sky's football offering. The agency had brief time with the star and its team had to capture as many scenes as possible with Hazard before rendering him into a capacity-filled Stamford Bridge where he sank a freekick.
The spot ends with the strapline 'Christmas is for Football'.
The spot debuted during Soccer AM on Saturday 24 November.