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Moving toward a sustainable future: The innovation and transformation of the food industry

Kees Kruythoff

chairman and chief executive officer

Sir Martin Sorrell

founder & executive chairman

What 2020 taught Channel 4’s Zaid Al-Qassab: ‘We knuckled down and did really well’

2020 has been an education for all of us. So as we approach the end of a year like no other, we’re asking media and marketing luminaries to share with us their biggest work lesson of the last 12 months. Here, Channel 4 chief marketing officer, as well as inclusion and diversity leader Zaid Al-Qassab, reflects on the rough-shod year that saw TV ad prices fall through the floor while viewerships went through the roof.

We were in the really extraordinary position of viewing going through the roof and revenue going through the floor at the same time – especially in quarter two, of course, when we didn’t quite know what was happening. That’s been well charted and documented in the industry.

We’ve grown linear share and digital views this year, which is the thing I came in to do. We believe we’ve kept pace with the wider SVOD growth in lockdown. Everyone was stuck at home and watched more TV and VOD. We’ve achieved 27% growth year-on-year.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but we had a fantastic offer for reaching more people than ever. As you can imagine, we have exactly the same pressures as every other company. We’ve been quite honest and open about cutting a sizable amount out of our budgets, hundreds of millions out of a £900m budget. We had a significant number of furloughs in my team because, frankly, we couldn’t produce anything new for a few months, so there wasn’t a lot of point having large amounts of people internally in marketing or in production working.

We had a tough job, cutting our budgets, cutting our cloth and replanning the year. It wasn’t fun, we didn’t enjoy it, but we knuckled down and did really well. We announced last week that we’ve got Channel 4 in a really good place this year.

It’ll be one of our best years in terms of the viewing numbers, and it will be one of our best years in terms of the cash position that we’re in. We just handled it very carefully.

The good news is, the market started to come back. It has come back stronger in TV than in other areas because, for obvious reasons, things like outdoor and cinema are still suffering really badly. So a lot of that money has come back to TV.

We’ve had a very good last few months and have brought the budget back to a lot of things we originally wanted to do.

Now, we’ve put some investment back into marketing and we need to get the team motivated and making things.

We’re ending the year in a pretty rosy place, not just as a business but as a team. We managed, against all the odds, to shoot the Great British Bake Off spot in the little production window – and Taskmaster. We were shooting three major things in one week, which obviously we would never normally do. It was high pressure and stressful, but we got that out the door.

Now we’ve got to get back to brand building. We’ve just released a Christmas spot because we’ve done our best to all through this period to show that Channel 4 is very much in tune with the nation and our viewers, and understands what’s going on. We’re blessed with amazing content. And we’re blessed with a brand that people understand. They relate to it. So, as marketers, we start on a very firm footing.