In a tough environment for television, the performance of the UKTV channel Dave was a highlight during 2008. Despite market pressures, the male-oriented channel, which was relaunched as Dave in October 2007, delivered on every measure - increasing revenues, audience and improving the quality of its programming.
The life of Dave began in autumn 2007 when UKTV announced that it would rebadge its little-watched UKTV G2 with a more user-friendly moniker. The broadcaster, a joint venture between BBC Worldwide and Virgin Media Television, was looking to pitch the channel more squarely at a 16- to 44-year-old male audience and introduced the Dave brand, and the accompanying launch strapline "the home of witty banter" as a bold, direct way of achieving this goal.
Key to achieving its aims were a slot on Freeview and a move up the Sky Electronic Programme Guide for the channel. But Dave's success this year can't solely be attributed to the "Freeview effect". The relaunch has delivered an increase in adult audiences of 56 per cent across pay-TV homes.
Dave has grown from the 29th to the tenth- largest channel in multichannel homes and is more than three times bigger in share and volume terms than UKTV G2. And Dave has delivered a 1.2 per cent share compared to UKTV G2's 0.4 per cent (Barb, June to July). Importantly, in a difficult market, Dave has grown from being the fifth-most profitable channel in the UKTV portfolio to the second, contributing an extra £25 million in ad revenue following the relaunch. Spontaneous awareness of the channel has increased from 2 per cent for UKTV G2 to 32 per cent for Dave and during its first six months on air, Dave attracted more than eight million new viewers to the UKTV network.
However, it's not simply in terms of raw audience and revenue that Dave has impressed. Advertisers have applauded its creation of a genuinely interesting channel that targets a distinct audience through strong programming and marketing. It's no longer seen as just another satellite channel and has won praise for targeting young and upmarket men with a carefully crafted programming line-up that includes ratings winners QI and Top Gear. The tone and weight of Dave's marketing (launch advertising featured a strange world of images such as oil paintings and stuffed giraffes designed to deliver a "Peter's Friends meets The Royal Tenenbaums" feel) created a distinct culture for the brand in an overcrowded market and has helped to maintain an industry buzz around the channel, more than a year on from its launch.
Dave deserves credit for investing in original commissions, two of which - the panel show Argumental and the gadget programme Batteries Not Included - came to air in October. This demonstrated loftier ambitions and the two shows will be joined next year by a new Red Dwarf project from the Dave team.
The Dave relaunch has succeeded to the degree that it has attracted a major channel sponsor in the shape of the beer brand Cobra, which was in part convinced due to the investment in new programming and Dave's online spin-off joindave.co.uk. The website works alongside the TV channel by reinforcing the "home of witty banter" positioning through the publication of daily, witty quotes and insights into the world of Dave. The introduction of the "Dave Lounge" has also proved a hit - its pub quiz and "wit list" helping the site generate 150 per cent growth year on year in terms of both page impressions and unique users. In addition, online clips from Dave programming are receiving more than 160,000 views.
The success of Dave has been such that it has encouraged, and provided a template for, UKTV's subsequent relaunch of its portfolio of channels (such as Watch and Alibi) - a sign that the broadcaster is high on confidence and delivering new ideas to advertisers. Dave had a tremendously strong 2008 and, impressively, it looks like UKTV already has a story to tell for advertisers during 2009 as it attempts to maintain the momentum around the channel which has become a must-have for advertisers targeting a male audience.
The Economist A title famed for its sober analysis of political and economic affairs is not what you would expect to be the subject of a rap by a 17-year-old. But earlier this year, two young members of a surprisingly large Facebook fanclub (the title now has an official page on the social networking site) were so moved by their favourite publication, they were inspired to rap about it. A line from the rap runs: "This style in which they write is simple and concise, how do they get their sentences so precise?"
Proof indeed that the brand's bid to appeal to a broader readership seems to be working, helped by a campaign by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO featuring cartoon designs, in a break with its classic campaigns of the past.
The Economist, long hailed as an exceptionally influential brand by agencies, advertisers and readers alike, showed growth and adaptability in a tough magazine market in 2008 while managing to hold tight to its shrewd sense of identity.
The title capitalised on the fact that, in the current climate, more people want to inform themselves about the global financial situation. It saw its 54th consecutive ABC rise, with its readership growing 5.6 per cent on last year to 182,539. Ad revenue rose 10.10 per cent and it boosted its number of ad pages by 7.8 per cent. It also made strides online. Economist.com saw a 68 per cent increase in page views year on year and the site also launched its first widget, a new online debating forum for readers, new journalist blogs and a redesigned homepage.
Subscriptions to the magazine now account for 60 per cent of sales and, as its subscribers have an average personal income of £111,000, its demographic is one particularly sought after by advertisers.
Cinema 2008 saw cinema as an advertising medium outperform many of its rival media, offering advertisers access to a wider range of creative solutions alongside larger audiences. Big hit films such as Sex and the City, Mamma Mia! and Quantum of Solace helped to boost audience levels to a 40-year high. On the back of this, ad revenues rose 1.7 per cent for the nine months to the end of September, totalling £122 million.
Cinema also offered advertisers more innovation via new formats such as Pearl & Dean's Cinescent, which sees smells pumped into cinemas alongside screen advertising. Nivea was the first advertiser to trial this.
Importantly, issues over the sales house ownership structure in cinema seemed to be cleared up with the creation of Digital Cinema Media following the acquisition of Carlton Screen Advertising by the cinema chains Odeon and Cineworld, while Pearl & Dean continues to be operated by SMG.
This enabled the sales houses to pitch for new contracts and to bring in greater levels of spend from advertisers including Sony PlayStation and Lego. With analysts predicting audiences will hold up during the downturn, cinema is a medium in rude health.
Recent winners: Google (2007); The Economist (2006); Channel 4 (2005); The Independent (2004); Sky (2003)
March: Cobra Beer is announced as the sponsor of Dave. The beer brand becomes the main sponsor of all programmes aired on Dave between 9pm and 11.40pm each night.
June: Dave achieves a reach of 11.2 million, with a further two million watching on its "+1" variant. This success prompts its owner UKTV to announce a rebranding of its entire channel portfolio. New programming includes Louis Theroux: Gambling in Las Vegas and The Most Hated Man in America.
August: Sony Pictures signs a deal with Dave to promote the launch of the Adam Sandler film You Don't Mess With The Zohan. Sony agrees to sponsor four hours of programming ahead of the film's release.
October: Dave launches two new original shows, the panel quiz game Argumental and the gadgets documentary Batteries Not Included. It also showcases four new idents, created by Red Bee Media, that emphasise the channel's "home of witty banter" positioning.