Few would have thought that a worldly wise knitted monkey and his
lazy armchair companion, Al, would lead the battle to help the public
understand the wealth of digital possibilities behind their television
But the speed with which the digital landscape has changed over recent
years has led to consumer confusion and a growing frustration at
technology information overload. Something emotionally engaging was
ONdigital, now rebranded to ITV Digital, had been responsible for its
fair share of confusion - an ONdigital survey showed a 95 per cent
awareness of the brand but a similar lack of brand understanding. The
company's marketing director, Jeremy Dale, is the man charged with
unravelling the maze.
Stage one was the rebranding of the service and Dale believes that the
monkey is just the biscuit to communicate this to the public.
Dale joined ONdigital as the director of marketing from Nintendo's UK
distributor, THE Games, in September last year. The effervescent Brummie
reports to ITV Digital's managing director, Rob Fyfe, but will also work
with ITV's new marketing and commercial director, Jim Hytner, when he
And Dale will have his work cut out for him. Consumers have complained
that technology leaders are so obsessed and excited about the potential
of their brands that they have lost empathy with their customers. The
last thing consumers want is to be bombarded with mystifying facts and
complicated technological explanations about digital television.
The rebranding of ONdigital to ITV Digital was an important move - but
one that Dale admits could have caused yet more confusion in the
"We wanted a campaign which would deliver multiple messages and the
benefit you can get from ITV Digital by just plugging it into your
aerial," he says.
The three benefits he cites from the name change are brand familiarity,
the cross-promotional opportunities now available and access to some
unique content. Dale admits the disparate messages from previous
campaigns had only confused viewers.
"We'd tried to put all the messages into a 30-second commercial," he
says, while admitting that previous ads spoke of features rather than
Dale's new strategy calls for a single creative vehicle that can work
across all media and reflect the personality of the company through a
number of separate messages. Mother's monkey and human double act has
proved just the ticket. The duo comprises an expert in the shape of
Monkey, and a fall guy in the rather more ample girth of Al. The double
act immediately appeals to, and connects with, the viewer, while
allowing them to ask the simpler questions about the technology
"The campaign demystifies and explains things to people rather than just
broadcasting at them," Mother's Stef Calcraft says. "It takes the side
of the consumer, but does it in an engaging way."
Still, all the appeal of advertising is no good if it doesn't translate
into sales. Dale agrees, but counters: "In the first week of the
campaign, our market share rose 15 points from 48 to 63 per cent. Now
every two out of three sales made are for ITV Digital."
ITV Digital's declaration of war on Sky has moved into the football
arena, historically the preserve of its rival. The recently launched ITV
Sport channel represents the most serious assault on Sky's football
domination yet, something about which Dale is justifiably excited.
"We've broken Sky's domination in retail and its domination over
football by acquiring those rights. And we've now made the break into
the pub market," he says. With football still being the biggest reason
for people to enter the digital market, the acquisition of these rights
is no mean feat.
While Dale will point to the fact that ITV Sport is great news for
football league fans who have historically not been treated to the best
coverage of their local teams, there's no denying that it's a great coup
for them personally. And even more of one if they get Sky to take the
channel. "We'd like them to," Dale says, not surprisingly. "That's in
negotiation. It's all about money, to be honest."
But with ntl nipping at its heels, ITV Digital certainly can't afford to
be complacent. Dale side-steps questions of whether the monkey's
employers might be losing ground to ntl, which recently announced
subscriber numbers passing the one million mark. But can he see them
overtaking Sky? "ITV Digital has never been better positioned than it is
now. We've overtaken Sky in terms of retail market share," he responds
Although ITV Digital is still a long way behind Sky in terms of
subscriber numbers, it has only been around for a quarter of the time.
And response to the new campaign is very optimistic.
"It'll take us some time to close the gap," Dale concedes, "but we're