Campaign Promotion: Planning for the future

Mike Parker, the head of strategic sales and commercial marketing at Channel 4, tells Jane Bainbridge why he's inspiring another generation of planners with The Plannertarium.

Three years into Channel 4's annual planning event - The Plannertarium - and Mike Parker, the head of strategic sales and commercial marketing for Channel 4 and the event's instigator, is convinced that media planners, buyers and advertisers are looking at TV in different ways.

While Parker does not claim all the credit, citing the efforts of rival media owners, there's no doubt that The Plannertarium has become much talked about with young talent keen to take part.

The event was created to inspire and advise planners on how to think about TV advertising in a different light and to use it more creatively to reach and engage audiences.

But Parker is honest about the business need for broadcasters to fight for advertising budgets. "Some advertisers have seeded ideas for new TV ads online and created viral activity, but it's noticeable now how more advertisers are working the other way round and seeing that they can create real excitement with the medium of TV itself."

T-Mobile went this way with "Josh's band", where a three-and-a-half-minute TV ad was used to kick off its campaign in January.

And there are signs of recovery in TV advertising. "TV revenue is doing incredibly well for the first five months of this year. Obviously, that's on a fairly difficult year last year as a base but TV is certainly bouncing back," he adds.

Parker puts the revival down to a couple of things: the process of advertising planners getting more excited by TV and using it creatively, and the resurgence of TV in general with massively successful shows such as The X Factor. "It's led a lot of advertisers to think, well why wouldn't I be on TV, because it's good value and it's reaching bigger audiences than ever?" he adds.

To prove his point, Parker offers several examples of creative and engaging campaigns.

"Right now Ikea is using narrative ads, three ads in consecutive ad breaks on homes programmes such as Location, Location, Location. Over the three breaks, somebody's kitchen is made over; in the first break they rip the kitchen out, then they destroy it, and then they reveal the new kitchen in the final one," Parker explains.

Last year, Procter & Gamble did a similar thing for Max Factor where consecutive ads aired showing someone getting a makeover. The company was so pleased with the results that it's planning to do something similar in the future.

Previously, Parker has talked about advertisers being given access to upcoming programme scripts so their ads could be tailored to fit with storylines. This idea came to fruition last year with O2's contextual ad campaign for its Load & Go prepayment card. "O2 ran a campaign in Hollyoaks where we gave it advanced scripts and we worked with it to create 20 different executions which were a mini soap within a soap. The two characters in the ad were talking about what happened on that evening's show," Parker says.

Another mechanism being adopted to allow advertisers to "go deeper" is block booking an entire ad break. Universal Pictures used the technique for the launch of The Wolfman, where it roadblocked four channels, Channel 4, Film4, More4 and E4, and booked the entire ad break. Orange has done a similar thing on Tuesday nights to advertise its Orange Wednesday promotions and film trailers.

So with examples like these, Channel 4 clearly feels its investment in The Plannertarium pays dividends. Once again, the event will be open to buyers as well as planners - about 20 per cent of last year's 40 attendees were buyers - so that they can think better about how they can work together to achieve more.

Consisting of both presentations from some inspiring speakers and interactive sessions, Parker stresses the day is as much about having fun as educating, and is proud of its 100 per cent attendance record so far. "We've found that many of the most creative things we've done as a media owner have been with people who've been to The Plannertarium. We keep in contact and have dialogue with them to keep them inspired and working as advocates for planning TV in innovative ways," Parker adds.


1. Learn to think differently about TV advertising that engages, cuts through and addresses consumers in new ways.

2. The day is informative, inspirational and, above all else, fun.

3. It helps planners create TV campaigns that will leave the opposition gasping.

Inspiring speakers, the brightest agency stars, five-star luxury - just a few of the things you might experience at The Plannertarium on 15 July this year. Stay at home, however, and you'll miss out. To apply for a place, log on to www.channel4sales.com/theplannertarium, and, once there, answer a few easy questions. The deadline's Friday 14 May 2010. To get you in the mood, read Channel 4's new Planet Blog at www.brandrepublic.com.