ITV's Rufus Radcliffe wants new campaign to reach 'light viewers' three times over

Campaign is start of year-long drumbeat of increased brand activity.

ITV's Rufus Radcliffe wants new campaign to reach 'light viewers' three times over

ITV is spending an extra £10m on marketing this year because it needs to "change brand perception" among light viewers and get out its message "to places it’s not been before and to surprise people".

That’s according to chief marketing officer Rufus Radcliffe as he unveiled the first two ads in its "Great characters make great drama" ad campaign, which features leading ITV drama characters Fred Thursday, played by Roger Allam and featured in Endeavour, and Vera Stanhope, played by Blenda Blethyn and protagonist of Vera.

Radcliffe and Dame Carolyn McCall, who joined as chief executive a year ago, told shareholders at their investor day in autumn last year how they had identified an audience of 15 million light viewers who like "quality output" and come to ITV about twice a week, but "watch less ITV and a little bit more of everything else".

McCall has given Radcliffe an extra £10m to increase the frequency of ITV’s messaging and he is adopting what he calls a "3+ reach" marketing strategy to attract light viewers.

He explained: "We believe a campaign has to be seen at least three times by a viewer to be effective."

ITV does not disclose its marketing budget, but it was previously thought to be around £15m, meaning an extra £10m would be a significant hike.

In a sign of ITV’s belief that it needs to invest more in marketing beyond its own promotional airtime, the broadcaster will run its ads on Channel 4 and Sky.

The ads will also appear "regularly" on Global’s radio stations and in out-of-home and the press, as well as on ITV’s own social channels, which have about 60 million fans in aggregate.

A typical ITV new series launch that relied on just on-air promos on ITV would reach 30% of light viewers, but this should rise to 53% thanks to the new ad campaign and the "3+ reach" strategy, according to Radcliffe's investor presentation.

He promised "a regular drumbeat of ITV brand activity across the year".

The new TV spots are the first to be produced by Uncommon Creative Studio since it was appointed as creative agency last year. Goodstuff Communications is handling media planning and buying activity.

The first ad debuted during Cleaning Up, ITV’s new Sheridan Smith-fronted drama about insider trading in the 9pm Wednesday slot.

Targeting by time of day is becoming increasingly important as ITV uses afternoon drive-time radio, regular slots on digital out-of-home screens in major cities and the commuter press to nudge people to watch later in the day, according to Radcliffe.

Other new activity includes fresh on-air idents, with a different artist commissioned to produce an ident each week for 52 weeks over the course of this year.

ITV has also launched a print title, ITV Magazine, for Waitrose customers – an indication of the target audience who are not primarily "Hoxton hipsters" from east London, as Radcliffe put it. Dentsu Aegis Network’s John Brown Publishing produces the magazine.

Radcliffe said ITV was in a strong position after the Love Island broadcaster increased viewing share and volume last year.

"The foundations are incredibly strong," he said in an interview at ITV’s Chancery Lane office. "We have incredibly loyal viewers who come night after night.

"But we recognise there is a significant brand target audience who we want to come to ITV more often than they do. We have a very powerful offering but they [light viewers] aren’t aware of it as much as they should be."

Radcliffe said part of the challenge is how expectations have been changing because of new entrants such as Netflix.

When ITV researchers tested new drama Liar on viewers – before they had seen any programme publicity – 29% said they would watch if it were on ITV, but that rose to 50% if they were told it would be on Netflix.

"We don’t get the credit from light viewers for the craft and the creativity of what we do," Radcliffe said, explaining how the new marketing campaign will challenge that perception.

While the first ads in the campaign have focused on drama, Radcliffe hinted that later spots will showcase other parts of the broadcaster.

McCall announced her "More than TV" strategy to investors and advertisers last year, explaining how she wants ITV to expand online platform ITV Hub, build a direct-to-consumer streaming service and invest more in marketing.

However, ITV has waited until now to launch an ad campaign. Radcliffe said the slogan "More than TV" is versatile and works well as a statement of "strategic intent" and a message to viewers.

He added that investment in marketing was important because ITV, the UK's largest free-to-air commercial broadcaster, and other British TV organisations face the rise of US streaming giants.

"If you’re not a brand that stands for something and goes out on the front foot and is confident, you’ll be challenged," Radcliffe said. "Carolyn’s and my view is you have to go out and tell your brand story in a way you might not have in the past."

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