Odd pairings team up for Sky Plus campaign

Sky is featuring "odd couple" pairings of celebrities with seemingly nothing in common in a major campaign to support Sky Plus, its personal video recorder.

By teaming up unlikely combinations such as the rock star Alice Cooper with the veteran comedian Ronnie Corbett, the satellite broadcaster will try to show how Sky Plus can do apparently incompatible things.

Sky has earmarked £20 million to introduce Sky Plus, its biggest promotional spend since the launch of Sky Digital in 1998.

Sky Plus, which allows viewers to store their favourite programmes within their Sky Plus box, pause live TV, cut out ads and create their own schedules, will be Sky's major marketing priority during the coming months.

Sky chiefs claim the Sky Plus offering will turn the PVR category into a mass-market phenomenon in the UK.

HHCL/Red Cell has created the three 40-second commercials breaking nationally this Thursday under the theme: "Sky Plus. Create your own TV channel."

Charles Ponsonby, Sky's marketing director, said: "Sky Plus is a revolutionary concept but can be a complicated one requiring an engaging and entertaining ad campaign that clearly illustrates the product benefit in an understandable and meaningful way."

One ad illustrates the Sky Plus offering by putting Bruce Forsyth and Kelly Brook, TV presenters from different generations, together in a suburban bungalow.

Although irritated by Brook pinching his catchphrases, Forsyth brightens when she explains how she's replaced their normal Sky service with "a new glitzy Sky box", allowing him to watch his favourite show, Bananas in Pyjamas, whenever he likes.

Another features bedtime banter between the 70s rock icon Noddy Holder and the actor Simon Callow who asks if they'll be watching Four Weddings and a Funeral. "No," Holder says. "Just good stuff."

All three ads were written and art directed by Jonathan Burley, Ian Williamson, Andrew Lloyd Jones and Mark Dickens and directed by Alan Coulter for Hungry Man.

Steve Henry, the HHCL/ Red Cell creative director, claimed the idea of odd pairings of celebrities could easily be turned into a long-running campaign or even television content.

"The idea is a very effective showcase to demonstrate how Sky Plus works because once people understand that, they tend to want to buy the product immediately," he added.

Universal McCann is handling media planning and buying for the campaign, which is being augmented by press advertising around TV listings to stimulate consumers as they choose what to watch.

The advertising will be at its most intense in the run-up to Christmas when Sky Plus sales are likely to hit their peak. This will include a direct response campaign on Sky channels as well as below-the-line activity encompassing direct mail, door drops, inserts, PR and sponsorship of Virgin Radio's breakfast show.

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).