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Making ‘Harris & the Robots’: Sky’s in-house agency launches its biggest push to date

Sky’s in-house agency has just debuted its biggest campaign to date to push the broadcaster’s Sky Q box. As it kicks off with an ad featuring a robot-obsessed little boy, The Drum goes behind the scenes of the project with Sky and Sky Creative Agency.

Sky’s in-house agency has just debuted its biggest campaign to date to push the broadcaster’s Sky Q box. As it kicks off with an ad featuring a robot-obsessed little boy, The Drum goes behind the scenes of the project with Sky and Sky Creative Agency.

Sky Creative Agency (SCA) is quite possibly the largest in-house advertising and creative shop in Europe. Housing 200 staff across seven departments, it was formed some 30 years ago to deliver work for the business which has since ranged from rebranding Sky Sports to bringing the magic of ET to screens for Christmas.

However, on Friday (23 October) the agency launched the TV element of its biggest campaign ever, designed to push the company’s Sky Q products – a series of devices that allow people to access Sky’s own TV package but also streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube and catch-up.

Sky approached SCA with the brief last year. Rebekah Huggett, head of advertising and campaigns, explains that the ultimate objective – among a competitive set top box and aggregator market also occupied by the likes of Apple and Amazon – was to create something that to showcase to viewers the benefit of having everything in a single place.

“Awareness of Sky Q is in a good place, but we wanted to connect with people in a different way and put them at the heart of the story and experience,” she says.

The resulting campaign is a mammoth one, running under the tagline: ‘Sky Q. Everything you love, all in one place, easy’. Over the coming months, Sky will showcase a series of stories that celebrate the individuality of its TV viewers as well as Sky Q’s ease of use. It will be used across the entire business including Republic of Ireland, Italy, Germany and Comcast in the US.

“We took our time to gather insight and early on in the process we realised that people see their viewing habits as a reflection of themselves,” explains SCA creative director Robin Garton.

“We looked at lots of ideas from that starting point, but we got to this idea of showcasing ‘the collector’ – effectively our customers go out into the world and collecting things that make up who they are. So the ads are a dramatic portrayal of the simple process of sitting in front of a TV, but being immersed in a world of content.”

The five stories in the string of ads aim to represent Sky’s diverse customer base, the society it operates in and the businesses’ ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, both on and off screen.

Behind the scenes with ‘Harris and the Robots’

The first story, titled ‘Harris & the Robots’, follows the journey of robot-obsessed 12-year-old Harris, as he weaves in and out of the worlds from Disney, Netflix and YouTube. On the way, he encounters characters like Ironman, BB8 and Megatron.

At the end of the ad, it’s revealed that one of the reasons Harris is passionate about the entertainment he has ‘collected’ along the way is because he has a prosthetic limb and feels an affinity with the characters in his collection. As part of the production, Sky worked closely with disability charity Scope in developing the advert.

“You’ll see diversity in casting across the campaign and it comes out of the individually we wanted to bring to the work,” says Garton.

In developing the work, the marketing team and SCA collaborated with partners including Netflix, Disney, Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros, Spotify, YouTube and more.

Huggett says the close relationships Sky already has with its entertainment bedfellows meant it was able to take a collaborative approach to the creative alongside them.

“We work with our partners on a regular basis already, so we’ve built that trust and collaboration already. We brought them into this campaign from the outset so that they were on the journey too and had the time to consider the ideas we were sharing with them,” she says.

“Also showcasing the quality and attention to detail throughout the production process, we genuinely took them on the journey with us. We shared each iteration with them, which really reassured them that we would take care of their IP which was so important both to them and us.”

The Sky’s the limit, even in lockdown

‘Harris & The Robots’ was shot entirely during lockdown with Sky Creative Agency’s in-house production and Sky’s marketing team overseeing the shoot in Barcelona from Sky’s West London campus. The remaining four stories will be shot in London.

Huggett says launching an ad of this scale remotely was a challenge Sky didn’t foresee but one it had to overcome quickly.

“What really helped was having that trust in our own agency and the director. We had to make key decisions quickly and remotely, so having that trust really helped”

All five stories in the series will be directed by Dan DiFelice and produced by Biscuit Filmworks and despite being produced under trying conditions, Garton argues the quality of the ad wasn’t compromised at all – and there’s certainly not sign of Covid-19 in the final product.

He continues: “Lots of productions in advertising haven’t happened because of coronavirus. We’ve proven that you can make it happen and you can make them as good as they would normally be.”

“When you look at the finished films there are moments in them that are indistinguishable from the movies themselves – Star Wars, Ironman, Transformers. The quality of the reproduction in those scenes means that consumers won’t be able to distinguish them from the real world created by the movie franchises themselves.”

In what is a series of firsts for Sky, the campaign idea launched ahead of the usual broadcast channels, using advocacy as a key strategy. Over the past few months influencers have taken to their social platforms to share with their fans what kind of TV they love watching on Q.

The fully integrated campaign is just getting started. Consumers will see high impact OOH as well as an extensive digital and audio strategy tapping into key passion points, using data and contextual online behavior to drive relevancy.

“This is the excellent result of the right sort of process and journey. A strong insight leading to a great idea that we’ve tailored to suit a vast range of media, taking it right through the line and on into content creation. The collective brain power of many, from across a range of disciplines, it’s a real endorsement of our in-house model,” finishes Huggett.

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