Opinion: Newland on ... Sky

The Sky account is one of the biggest - and ugliest - in town. And now that Murdoch junior has taken the helm of BSkyB, it's got even bigger.

He's on a subscription-driving rampage and has identified the significant role advertising has to play in his strategy. The atl spend is now estimated at £100 million.

This is good news for Sky's agency, HHCL/Red Cell, isn't it? Untold millions entering its coffers. Well, maybe. The problem is, the scale of the account can eat an agency alive; Sky's demands are famous for draining an agency's lifeblood away from its other clients. On top of this, the broadcaster has a tendency to ditch its agency with little ceremony after only a few months (just ask M&C Saatchi or St Luke's).

Timewise, HHCL is in the danger zone. It has had the account for more than a year. If Sky's track record is anything to go by, surely it is already thinking that it could get better results from another agency? I hope not. Because I'm not sure it can.

The current branding blitz is everywhere. There's high-profile television, press and masses of posters.

It all pivots on the "what do you want to watch?" endline. The subscription-driving brief is clear. The line tells us exactly what is good about multichannel television: choice.

The posters support this proposition with immediacy. There's a vast range of them, each promoting different channels and programmes available through Sky. There's one for FilmFour with a moody still of Steve McQueen from Bullitt, there's one for Nick Jr for Dora the Explorer. Sky Sports is promoted with an image of a horse jumping a fence. All have the glass Sky logo, huge and bang in the middle.

Press work uses more copy, but I'm not sure it offers any more than the poster executions, which use only the endline.

Television is, natch, the strongest of the work. There's one spot where a scene from Finding Nemo is played out. Silent copy reads "Children are the harshest critics". After a pause, "that's why their TV is so good" appears, followed by the "what do you want to watch?" endline. Another, my favourite, is for Sky One's 24. It's a simple close-up of Kiefer Sutherland's face as he slowly collapses into tears. The copy reads: "Lose yourself in someone else's story."

I really like the advertising. It's humble on two levels. First, it's not what you'd expect from big, scary, corporate Sky. The company's image is tarnished by that of its biggest shareholder, News Corp - that of an evil empire attempting world domination. In consumer terms, this normally translates to a rich company wanting lots of your money. However, the ad campaign successfully conveys a customer-services message. The branding campaign shows Sky is all about meeting the needs of viewers. You, the existing or potential customer, are the subject of the advertising, not Sky.

The second dose of humility is dealt out by HHCL. There's multiple use of what must be the biggest and most prominent logo ever incorporated in a poster ad - there's no room for luvvies here. Replete with the £100 million budget, HHCL hasn't given in to the temptation to produce a two-minute branding film shot by the likes of Jonathan Glazer. Instead, it has used Sky's own footage to demonstrate the range and quality of the broadcaster's programming.

There's no showing off in these ads, just a simple message ably communicated.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Sadly not; they didn't use JonathanGlazer

File under ... C for customer-centric.

What would the chairman's wife say? "I'm staying in tonight to watch

some telly."


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