Sky calls pitch to build creative agency roster

BSkyB is looking for a second advertising agency to help it meet its commitment to raise its marketing spend by 50 per cent to £150 million.

The review is in its early stages; the AAR is drawing up a longlist of agencies. The winning agency's brief will be to promote Sky's programmes.

It will work alongside HHCL/Red Cell, the incumbent on Sky's ad account. It won the Sky Plus business at the beginning of last year before picking up the rest of the account when Bates was merged into WPP.

The review comes as the chief executive, James Murdoch, aims to increase Sky's marketing spend to boost subscribers amid greater competition in the multichannel market. About half of the current spend is allocated to above-the-line advertising.

Murdoch is looking to hit a target of eight million subscribers by the end of 2005 and ten million by 2010. However, growth has been slowing following the introduction of Freeview, the BBC's free digital service, which is partially backed by Sky.

Last month, Sky announced that in 2003, its pre-tax profits more than doubled to £514 million, on revenues of £3.7 billion. However, slower-than-expected subscriber growth has increased pressure from shareholders.

It added 81,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2003, but needs 100,000 a quarter to achieve its targets.

The hunt for creative agencies follows a review of its £43 million media account, which moved to MediaCom in August, after six years with Universal McCann.

In March, Sky appointed Mother to the £5 million creative account for its interactive betting service Sky Bet.

Sky recently bolstered its marketing team. Its head of marketing communications, Barnaby Dawe, became the director of marketing and the former HHCL/Red Cell planner Robert Tansey joined as the director of marketing communications for direct-to-home subscriptions and Sky Sports.

At the end of last month it launched a direct marketing assault on non-subscribers. DM agency Dunnhumby has been tasked with building a database of prospective customers.

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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).