Last July, ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall reveal her ‘More than TV’ strategy to the city. Six months later, new creative agency in tow, and the broadcaster has released the marketing campaign it hopes will convince 15 million so-called ‘light viewers’ to tune in more often.
Uncommon – the agency run by former Grey London trio Nils Leonard, Lucy Jameson and Natalie Graeme – won the coveted brand revival brief for ITV last April, becoming the shop’s biggest client.
Uncommon started work alongside ITV Creative, the producer broadcaster’s in-house creative agency, and ITV Marketing to review the brand and advertising strategy.
The brief from McCall was simple – rebrand ITV as a creative organisation.
Most people, for example, won’t know that five of the top 10 most watched programmes in the UK in 2018 were produced by firms associated with ITV Studios including Bodyguard, I’m A Celebrity….Get Me Out of Here and Vera.
Per research revealed yesterday (16 January), it produced a record high of over 8,500 hours of original programming.
Yet, what emerged from research was that ITV “doesn't get the credit for the craft and creativity at the heart of our business," said chief marketing officer Rufus Radcliffe.
The resulting advertising push to win round 15 million irregular viewers has been dubbed ‘Great Characters Make Great Drama’ and aims to “celebrate the impact [great drama] has on lives beyond the screen.”
“Light viewers had been gradually drifting away so we wanted to remind them that ITV is great telly and great drama,” Jameson said. "Repositioning ITV as a creative force in drama was the best way to do that.”
The films look to highlight the complexity and depth of ITV characters and the compelling stories they tell. The first two films in the series portray a different character archetype, ‘The Patriarch’ (shown above) and ‘The Guvnor’ (below), the former starring stage and screen actor Roger Allam as Endeavour's Detective Inspector Fred Thursday and the latter featuring actress Brenda Blethyn as the unorthodox DCI Vera Stanhope.
The characters speak to the viewer, explaining how they work, what fuels them and ultimately, why people are moved by them and seek them out.
Both films were directed by Oscar-winner James Marsh, whose credits include The Theory of Everything and Man on Wire.
They will air across TV (including Sky and Channel 4), digital and cinema from 16 January. The campaign will be followed by radio executions performed by ITV talent, due to launch within the next month.
Showing brands the power of TV
But the quest to convert ‘light' viewers does not start and end with this campaign.
Radcliffe has been given “significant” marketing budget from McCall to deliver against her objectives. Over the course of 2019, further campaigns following the same style will launch to showcase the ‘characters’ fronting its News and Entertainment divisions, alongide an ongoing project which has called on creatives of any background to reimagine the ITV idents.
Beyond just convincing viewers to reappraise ITV, Radcliffe and McCall will also be hoping that this creative also has the power to persuade advertisers to rethink TV budgets heading for the broadcaster.
With uncertainty surrounding Britain’s departure from the EU at an all-time-high, research has shown that investment by brands into TV advertising could stall.
According to figures from Enders Analysis, TV advertising, including spend on catch-up services such as ITV Hub and All4, is expected to fall by more than 9% in the event of a no-deal Brexit – a drop of almost £500m on the £5.1bn spent on TV last year.
TV advertising is still expected to fall even if there is a Brexit deal, but only by 2.9%.
“What this work shows is the emotional power of ITV content. And all the research shows that if you put your advertising around powerful and emotional content then that will work for your business. So, we think this helps with the overarching ITV strategy both from a consumer and commercial point of view,” urged Radcliffe.
“When there is economic uncertainty, the brand that invest in advertising reap the rewards in the long term.”