Media Headliner: Lucas out to unlock 'massive potential' of UKTV

UKTV is hoping its new marketing chief can build on Dave's success and bring its family of channels together.

The mood is upbeat down at UKTV. Its team is in high spirits after the initial success of the relaunch of UKTV G2 as Dave ("the home of witty banter"). In its first month, the men's entertainment channel has more than trebled its share and become the UK's tenth-largest TV channel.

It's this sort of success that UKTV, under its chief executive, David Abraham (the former St Luke's chief executive joined the broadcaster in February), wants to replicate with its other eight channels. Its other brands include UKTV Gold and the specialist channels, including UKTV Style and UKTV Food.

There is a great deal of potential at UKTV (which is a joint venture between the BBC and Virgin Media Television - formerly Flextech), but this will need unlocking by a strong team at the helm.

In a bid to introduce some sort of consistency and dynamism into its marketing effort, UKTV has just announced the appointment of Tom Lucas as director of marketing and communications. Lucas, who was poached from ITV where he was the controller of channel marketing and interactive, will report to his former ITV colleague Matthew Littleford, now the controller of UKTV.

Lucas, who at ITV was responsible for the marketing of all of ITV's digital channels and brands such as ITV.com, should settle quickly at UKTV. A former agency account director, he worked for Abraham at St Luke's and his working relationship with Littleford at ITV was a successful one.

But what attracted him to the smaller environment at UKTV, which has an advertising spend hovering around the £3 million mark? "It has got a fantastic portfolio of clearly differentiated channel brands, which is rare in the multichannel world," Lucas says. "I really like the blend of large, general entertainment channels with the 'passion channels'."

Lucas says he has been handed a clear mandate and was hired because at ITV he worked on establishing a clear identity across its digital channels while finding ways of expressing them as a whole family. He says he enjoys the intellectual challenge of developing marketing that can integrate platform and channel brands.

Before working at ITV, he was an account man at agencies including Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, St Luke's and then HHCL & Partners, where he ran the BSkyB account.

Lucas says: "Account handling in advertising was fantastic preparation. You gain a unique blend of commercial, strategic, people and project management skills. I found having worked on the creative side useful, especially in developing relationships with programmers. I find on the client side I don't have to worry so much about things getting done - it's more about thinking intellectually about the right thing to do when communicating."

In addition to his time on the account side, Lucas also tried his hand as a creative and trained for a year as a copywriter at Hertfordshire College. He decided he missed running client business, though, and continued to build his experience: "This has made me more demanding and, unfortunately for agencies, I know how much work you can achieve in a day."

Not that he plans to make instant changes on his arrival. He says he will look at UKTV's relationship with Red Bee Media on creative and PHD on media, but only because he says he's "committed to looking at everything" as opposed to calling an instant review.

More broadly, his plans for UKTV involve helping to incease its audience, something that seems realistic given the shot in the arm it's been given by the growth of Freeview and the impending analogue switch-off. He says: "Each channel brand has massive potential. I want to manage a happy and fulfilled team that leverages creative and pushes boundaries. I want to achieve an engaging and clear channel differentiation and build on the sense of excitement created by the launch of Dave. There's an appetite for creativity right across the brands."

And his arrival is much needed, according to observers. One source close to UKTV describes its marketing as "a complete shambles" and argues that Lucas' appointment to the new, central role will be a step forward in bringing together marketing of the separate brands into some sort of coherent whole. Previously, marketing has mainly been the responsibility of each channel controller, creating inevitable inconsistency across the organisation. Another source says: "It's a key role in the organisation. They need somebody in there with marketing nous and to ask the question: what are the roles of the brands at UKTV and does UKTV itself actually mean anything?"

Critics argue that its marketing has been "too bitty" recently, creating confusion in the minds of viewers. Dave's launch, though, seemed like a move in the right direction, with a clear strategy of focusing the £1 million launch budget around the initial few weeks.

Unsurprisingly, UKTV feels it has got the right man in Lucas. Littleford, who has only been there for a couple of months himself, says: "Tom has an amazing way about him and understands viewers fantastically well and TV brilliantly. I wanted someone with real insight because we've had a creative success with Dave, so it's about taking that creativity and spreading it across the network, in terms of channels and overall."

THE LOWDOWN
Age: 33
Lives: Honor Oak Park, South-East London
Family: Girlfriend, Ellie
Most treasured possession: Longines dress watch - 18th birthday gift
from parents
Favourite TV shows: Nip/Tuck, Question Time, Whose Line is it Anyway?,
Blackadder
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Last book you read: The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
Motto: The unexamined life is not worth living