Media: Strategy Analysis - Sky's commercials are everywhere

Brand: Sky Digital

Clients: Jon Florsheim, Charlie Ponsonby

Brief: Drive reappraisal of the Sky brand to help push sales towards

eight million by end-2005

Target audience: ABC1 25- to 44-year-old non-Sky customers

AGENCIES

Media planning: MediaCom

Media buying: MediaCom and IPM

Creative: HHCL/Red Cell

STRATEGY BSkyB wanted to encourage consumers to reappraise the Sky brand and the range of content available from pay-TV. MediaCom needed to find ways to challenge entrenched views of Sky among terrestrial viewers. These focus on a perceived lack of quality and diversity in programming.

An exclusive focus on a single genre of programming, such as sport or movies, would not be sufficiently motivating. To challenge perceptions of Sky and overcome barriers to purchase, MediaCom needed to make terrestrial viewers, and in particular families, understand the diversity and quality of programming on offer.

This led to a focused strategy of delivering multiplicity. The strategy was executed in a differing manner across different communications platforms, which allowed MediaCom to play to the strengths of each platform. Sky, as a broadcast medium, needed to deal with both static- and moving-image media, tailoring its approach to fit each medium.

EXECUTION

The campaign's multiple executions used programme clips and images to heighten awareness of the diversity and quality of pay-TV. Among the featured programmes were Sky One's 24, Nickelodeon Jr's Dora The Explorer, TCM's Elvis, That's The Way It Is and the films The Matrix Revolutions (Sky Movies) and Finding Nemo (Disney Channel).

- TV and cinema Moving-image platforms gave MediaCom the opportunity to sample Sky programming out to consumers. TV kicked off with a "purity" of multiplicity: three ads in one break in core peak programming, to get pan-executional coverage up quickly, and was then reinforced with an ongoing frequency campaign with detailed implementational buying based on the best opportunities to reach audiences for individual programme genres.

Two different packages were bought in cinema to allow access to two different audiences, with two sets of differing messages. Again, three ads in one break were used to showcase the breadth of offering.

- Transvision Transvisions were used with executions that MediaCom saw as most relevant to a consumer audience, to add a touch of entertainment to downtime.

- Outdoor Large-format outdoor was planned at a very high frequency, targeting sites where two or more executions could sit together, reinforcing the something-for-everyone message and capitalising on the route-home opportunity.

- Press Bespoke press "specials" challenged the audience's preconceptions, all with a focus on multiplicity - "60 reasons to go digital" (The Independent), a takeover of Sunday Times Culture, "50 greatest moments on multichannel TV" (The Daily Telegraph).

These were backed up with ongoing use of impactful press spaces, which looked to bring the discussion even closer to what would motivate the readers of an individual title or genre.

RESULTS

The campaign beat all targets set for the quarter. Millward Brown tracking indicated a 5 per cent rise in terrestrial respondents stating they were more likely to subscribe to Sky having seen the advertising; an early shift in barriers to purchase. In the three months to 31 December 2004, Sky recorded its highest quarterly sales for two years, with 371,000 gross customer additions.

THE VERDICT - Phil Georgiadis chief executive, Walker Media

There are some big numbers here: 371,000 gross customer additions sounds like a lot. So does £40 million, which must be roughly what Sky would have spent on this campaign. This would make Sky the biggest single brand advertiser in the UK, were it to keep the ferocious media intensity up over a full year. At around £100 a customer, it's probably good value, given the economics of the Sky business. Lucky old MediaCom.

The truth, though, is that it is too early to tell whether the strategy has really worked. MediaCom is trying to force a reappraisal among terrestrial viewers with entrenched views. It may be that it is right to change tack away from Sky's historic "retail" approach that led with price and largely focused, content-wise, on sport and movies. But in doing so, and in spite of the sheer weight of the campaign, I am not sure that it hasn't confused the channel brands with the distribution brand and the programme brands ... and the multiplicity strategy has fuelled this potential confusion.

I thought the creative was strong and the media approach that brought it together certainly acknowledged the scale of the budget. The plan exploited (and in some cases exhausted) a whole variety of media. Outdoor and cinema were the dominant players. But against an audience of families who only watch terrestrial TV, I was left wondering whether the "desert island" medium should really have been terrestrial TV. Now, I accept that this may have been political - terrestrial TV ads would line the pockets of ITV, Channel 4 and five(probably) at a premium - but Sky did manage to use TV, so I assume that it was possible to do so even more.

Outdoor has been the favoured medium of broadcasters for many years.

But I'm not sure it delivered as a means of disrupting and engaging at the same time. Brand visibility undoubtedly ... in spades. But Sky needs to use its vast budgets in a "sampling" exercise to force a sustained reappraisal. And it's TV that must lead this charge against the resistors and rejecters.

I was left thinking that the use of all the media on this plan was not as "focused"as the analysis suggests. If this was a "focused strategy of delivering multiplicity", then I'd love to see what a "broader" approach would look like!

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