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The 'UK Super Bowl'? ITV hopes Euro 2020 will help make TV ads great again

Waters also said ITV would be “capping” fees for ad slots around the tournament

At the end of 2019, ITV invited advertisers to pitch for a free prime slot during the Euro 2020 final. Now, it’s revealed exactly what it’s looking for from brands as it looks to use the big game to set a new bar for creativity in the UK.

“Euro 2020 is a fantastic context in which to help up create some really powerful advertising,” said ITV’s director of client strategy Kate Waters.

“What we’re talking about internally is how to use the tournament to create our own UK version of the Super Bowl."

Waters was speaking at an event organised by System 1 – which will be responsible for judging the entries based on the level of emotional engagement the ads submitted by brands, and their agencies, garner from viewers.

System1 will identify the five most emotionally engaging ads using its Ad Ratings tool, before a research panel of ITV viewers will then review those ads and select the one they judge to be most entertaining.

Waters also said ITV would be “capping” fees for ad slots around the tournament, but didn’t give further information on what the pricing structure would look like for brands.

A team from ITV has identified seven ‘creative territories’ brands could explore if they want to be in with a chance of winning competition.

Based on successful ads that have already aired on ITV or online, recommendations include showcasing ads that are made in Britain or that feature “reliant heroism” and “everyday underdogs”. Advertisers have also been advised to explore taboos, drive purpose, consider “meta” advertising (like Oatly) or think about “rewriting masculinity” a la Gillette.

For its part, System 1 has worked with ITV to develop an 11-point ‘creative game plan’ to make sure brands ads score points with consumers.

Brands and agencies have been advised to create spots that will build a legacy for the long-term, focus on emotional plotlines and use “fluent devices” (or reoccurring characters and scenarios) that will cement cultural status.

ITV is splitting its coverage of the Uefa Euros, which will be held across 12 countries to celebrate 60 years of the championship, with BBC. Both channels will show the final, echoing the deal they inked the last time around.

Portugal's win over France in the Euro 2016 final saw BBC topple ITV’s ratings by a ratio of 5:1; gaining an average of 10.2 million viewers compared to the commercial broadcaster’s 19 million. At its peak, the final gained 13.6 million viewers, with 44 million in total tuning into ITV’s coverage of the entire tournament.

Nonetheless, ITV sees 2020 as an opportunity as a “huge opportunity” for brands to create the kind of advertising that can cut through and create "enormous commercial gain" in a landscape where the British public’s trust in advertising recently hit its lowest ebb since 1992.

Highlighting how a lack of favourability with the public and a "crisis" in ad effectiveness was (as discovered by the IPA) impacting modern advertising, Waters said she believed ITV has been assessing the role it had play in making sure its ad breaks lived up to the content and programming it produces.

“The obvious place to start is Euro 2020,” she said. “If people don’t like what we do and if it’s not working very hard, then what future does advertising have?

“At ITV this is something we need to start taking very seriously. You could argue in the past that we’ve not really felt like we had a place to engage with this… we didn’t really know enough about what was going on to have a point of view.

“If you were to be cruel,” she went on, “you could have categorised our relationship with the advertising content as being a bit like a [cheap motel]; we would happily take [brands'] money but we wouldn’t worry too much about what went after that money was spent, now we’re armed with the insight and we can do something about this problem.”

Entries can be between 30 to 120-seconds long and the competition will close for entires on 26 June 2020 ahead of the 12 July final.

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