CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/JEREMY DALE - Digital marketer counts on Mother's 'double act'. Jeremy Dale has the job of building awareness of ITV Digital, Jenny Watts writes

Few would have thought that a worldly wise knitted monkey and his

lazy armchair companion, Al, would lead the battle to help the public

understand the wealth of digital possibilities behind their television

sets.



But the speed with which the digital landscape has changed over recent

years has led to consumer confusion and a growing frustration at

technology information overload. Something emotionally engaging was

needed quickly.



ONdigital, now rebranded to ITV Digital, had been responsible for its

fair share of confusion - an ONdigital survey showed a 95 per cent

awareness of the brand but a similar lack of brand understanding. The

company's marketing director, Jeremy Dale, is the man charged with

unravelling the maze.



Stage one was the rebranding of the service and Dale believes that the

monkey is just the biscuit to communicate this to the public.



Dale joined ONdigital as the director of marketing from Nintendo's UK

distributor, THE Games, in September last year. The effervescent Brummie

reports to ITV Digital's managing director, Rob Fyfe, but will also work

with ITV's new marketing and commercial director, Jim Hytner, when he

arrives.



And Dale will have his work cut out for him. Consumers have complained

that technology leaders are so obsessed and excited about the potential

of their brands that they have lost empathy with their customers. The

last thing consumers want is to be bombarded with mystifying facts and

complicated technological explanations about digital television.



The rebranding of ONdigital to ITV Digital was an important move - but

one that Dale admits could have caused yet more confusion in the

marketplace.



"We wanted a campaign which would deliver multiple messages and the

benefit you can get from ITV Digital by just plugging it into your

aerial," he says.



The three benefits he cites from the name change are brand familiarity,

the cross-promotional opportunities now available and access to some

unique content. Dale admits the disparate messages from previous

campaigns had only confused viewers.



"We'd tried to put all the messages into a 30-second commercial," he

says, while admitting that previous ads spoke of features rather than

benefits.



Dale's new strategy calls for a single creative vehicle that can work

across all media and reflect the personality of the company through a

number of separate messages. Mother's monkey and human double act has

proved just the ticket. The duo comprises an expert in the shape of

Monkey, and a fall guy in the rather more ample girth of Al. The double

act immediately appeals to, and connects with, the viewer, while

allowing them to ask the simpler questions about the technology

involved.



"The campaign demystifies and explains things to people rather than just

broadcasting at them," Mother's Stef Calcraft says. "It takes the side

of the consumer, but does it in an engaging way."



Still, all the appeal of advertising is no good if it doesn't translate

into sales. Dale agrees, but counters: "In the first week of the

campaign, our market share rose 15 points from 48 to 63 per cent. Now

every two out of three sales made are for ITV Digital."



ITV Digital's declaration of war on Sky has moved into the football

arena, historically the preserve of its rival. The recently launched ITV

Sport channel represents the most serious assault on Sky's football

domination yet, something about which Dale is justifiably excited.



"We've broken Sky's domination in retail and its domination over

football by acquiring those rights. And we've now made the break into

the pub market," he says. With football still being the biggest reason

for people to enter the digital market, the acquisition of these rights

is no mean feat.



While Dale will point to the fact that ITV Sport is great news for

football league fans who have historically not been treated to the best

coverage of their local teams, there's no denying that it's a great coup

for them personally. And even more of one if they get Sky to take the

channel. "We'd like them to," Dale says, not surprisingly. "That's in

negotiation. It's all about money, to be honest."



But with ntl nipping at its heels, ITV Digital certainly can't afford to

be complacent. Dale side-steps questions of whether the monkey's

employers might be losing ground to ntl, which recently announced

subscriber numbers passing the one million mark. But can he see them

overtaking Sky? "ITV Digital has never been better positioned than it is

now. We've overtaken Sky in terms of retail market share," he responds

enthusiastically.



Although ITV Digital is still a long way behind Sky in terms of

subscriber numbers, it has only been around for a quarter of the time.

And response to the new campaign is very optimistic.



"It'll take us some time to close the gap," Dale concedes, "but we're

satisfied."