Sky reunites Elliott with ET: 'A real sequel, not just a Christmas ad'
For Sky's in-house creative agency, the imaginatively named Sky Creative Agency, this marks the first time it has worked with Comcast and its lead agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners (GS&P) on a brief - but the team hopes for more transatlantic collaborations in the coming years.
The largest in-house marketing team in the UK, worked with GS&P and director Steven Spielberg on the script to deliver a follow up to the classic movie. Robin Garton, Sky Creative Agency executive creative director, said "is a real sequel, not just a Christmas ad."
SCA also helped localise the piece for UK audiences, after all, the spot is about as American as the Reese's Pieces that famously starred in the original.
The family-friendly campaign sees ET embark on a 3 million mile journey to catch-up Elliott, the boy who rescued ET from the US government. Now, the extra-terrestrial bonds with Elliott's kids and is introduced to the tech of the moment, including when he 'calls home' - which is much easier in 2019 than it was in 1982.
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Garton said: "When you saw the script you knew it was going to be amazing but we wondered if we could make it happen." The ad is a testimony to the scale of ambition at Sky and Comcast now from a marketing point of view, he added.
Spielberg oversaw the shoot, from the first storyboard to its final approval, as one of his early hits, he was keen to ensure it was in line with the classic movie.
For SCA, the seeds of marketing collaboration are now in place with Comcast. "On the shoot we talked a lot about what we can learn about each other. We have almost exactly the same products, services and content provisions, and share in future production. It feels like it could be the beginning of that."
This campaign also marks the first time Sky has run a unified Christmas campaign across all its products, and ET was too hot a property to miss out on. Garton explained: "Sky is held together by broadband, mobile and TV, all of those things help people connect with the things they love, it felt like Christmas was a good time to talk about this."
The return of Henry Thomas as Elliot all these years later had a magical effect during the shoot. He treated the plastic puppet like an old friend. The young actors reportedly saw his reverence for the lovable alien and followed suit.
"They saw him as real, that authenticity is really visible."
Tonight (9pm) the ad has a two-minute roadblock on Sky and other channels. However, the classic movie is probably more at home in cinemas, with ET's return being seen in two and four-minute slots across theatres. Social media work will further leverage the property throughout the festive period.
The ad (or movie) marks a fundamental truth for the broadcaster: "Sky's advertising has to connect with customers in the same way that the content does. The challenge is to produce advertising that people want to watch and that appears to be forgotten of the years."
Resurrecting old IP is risky business, especially as an ad.
For Garton, it was important to show the movie the respect it deserves and not push the products so far. "It's easy to be cynical about these things, we respected it and consumers will connect with it."
The work will run on owned each side of the Atlantic, although in the US, it is Xfinity rather than Sky being promoted.
Stephen van Rooyen, chief executive of UK & Ireland, Sky added: "It’s an honour to bring ET back to Earth in this new festive short story, helping us to celebrate the magic of family time at Christmas and Sky’s part in bringing our customers together at this special time of year.”
SCA managing director Simon Buglione hinted at "world domination" plans for the agency back in June. He was speaking after Comcast's Sky acquisition, The Drum suggested it could be the case that Comcast takes great interest in the in-house marketing model Buglione has created. Could its marketing briefs, like its content, be more global in nature?