By John McCarthy | Media editor

October 29, 2021 | 5 min read

Sky has rolled out the second stage of its biggest-ever marketing campaign to showcase the ‘magic’ technology of its new Sky Glass TV in the UK. Director Michael Gracey, best known for much-loved film The Greatest Showman, talks The Drum through the campaign.

‘The Wizard’ (above) marks the launch of the second stage of the Sky Glass marketing campaign. Its objective is to build a little color, creative and emotion around the product, adding to the foundations laid by ‘The Spell,’ an educational piece informing audiences about the features. As a whole, the campaign looks to change how the company goes to market in the streaming generation.

Underpinning the entire campaign is AKQA’s love of the famous Arthur C Clark quote: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

In the spot, the Sky Glass is conjured by a young wizard and his trusty apprentice in his living room. Wires are vanquished and the screen illuminates the house. We’ll see this storyline advance as the weeks pass to highlight key features of the TV, such as its surround sound and vivid picture – all with a hint of magic underlining it.

Sky estimates the campaign will reach 99.9% of the UK population in one way or another, and hopes its “earworm” bespoke soundtrack from ‘Rising Star’ Brit Award-winner Griff lands with audiences. But this spot will have the unenviable job of selling audiences on the convenience of the TV in the run-up to Christmas.

Director Michael Gracey, of Partizan, had 20 years of commercial production under his belt before landing The Greatest Showman with audiences. He says he really “fell in love with what we were advertising, which isn’t always the case.” He came to this conclusion during a thrilling test screening of Max Max: Fury Road from fellow director George Miller.

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He says helming the creative for the pay-TV giant’s most “most digitally-driven” campaign was “amazing.”

“It was one of those productions where the agency, the client and the crew just had an amazing time – there was lots of laughter and fun and that was captured on screen,” believing a stressful set bleeds into the production, meaning “audiences would never buy it as genuine.”

Gracey leaned into memories of childhood, believing he could conjure good things with a touch of magic. This idea follows through into the creative where we see Sky Glass brewed in a cauldron.

He worked closely with Sky’s in-house agency Sky Creative and creative agency AKQA to deliver the campaign. “I sketched it out. They looked like student films that didn’t make the final cut,” he jokes. But there remained an important part of the production process. “They immediately showed us what would and wouldn’t work on the screen before we added all the bells and whistles.”

During this process, the client and agency kept adding and iterating the idea, much like the cauldron he alluded to earlier.

Gracey has got a slew of award-winning commercials to his name. Evian’s ‘Roller Babies’ is probably the one that still sits in the public consciousness.

Gracey likens commercial work to “high pressure ... creative jam sessions where you get to use all the latest toys.” As a testbed it is unsurpassed. He adds: “It’s too risky to do a whole feature film using a new piece of tech – you need to have something that is tried and tested.”

He concludes: “There is no way ever I would have been able to do The Greatest Showman as my first film had I not done 20 years of commercials before.”

The three-month campaign will touch most media, with radio spots featuring Helena Bonham Carter and out-of-home (OOH) adverts from photographer Alex Telfer.

Sunny Bhurji, marketing director at Sky, said: “Sky Glass has been designed to be the smartest TV in the market. ‘The Wizard’ phase of the campaign aims to uncover the magic of some of the incredible Sky Glass product features, which shows consumers why it is a TV experience like no other. We knew that we would need the best creative agencies and a director with a strong vision that could elevate these features into immersive brand stories.”

Jade Tomlin, group creative director at AKQA, added: “The vision was to bring life and magic to television. We knew this charming magician needed a heavyweight director like Michael to elevate the magic we were building narratively. ‘The Wizard’ campaign shows magic back into the heart of our homes.”

Additional reporting from Hannah Bower.

Sunny Bhurji, marketing director at Sky, previously opened up on 18 “hardcore” months bringing the UK’s biggest-ever product launch to life.

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