Covid helped UKTV move away from ‘Bat-Signal’

The pandemic was the wake-up call UKTV needed to reignite brand building efforts and move away from its sole focus on short-term activity, according to chief marketing and innovation officer Simon Michaelides. We’d lost sight of a lot of best practice rigour and discipline, and developed some pretty bad habits, he admitted, speaking at the Festival of Marketing: Transform last week. We’d effectively been ignoring and papering over a lot cracks, which we kicked ourselves for because a lot of those cracks related directly to marketing and advertising industry learnings, which had been staring us in the face for some time.

Read more:

The broadcaster, which owns channels such as Dave, Drama and W, had been focused on what he calls Bat-Signal marketing, which takes its cues from the constant stream of new shows that need to be launched. We were often just picking up whichever show drops off the end of the conveyor belt and throwing a Bat-Signal into the sky to show it exists and then dropping it, and moving on to the next one, he explained. But it meant the brand was effectively having to reset its approach every time a new show launched, which resulted in disposable marketing campaigns and creative work with minimal consistency and little accumulative impact. In other words, TVs obsession with short-term, appointment-to-view campaigns meant we had been anchoring ourselves in the less effective world of low brand and high activation plans, when for maximum effectiveness we really needed to strike a balance between the two, Michaelides said.

Exposing the problem, The pandemic brought this problem into sharp relief when the conveyor belt of new shows ground to a halt, as production teams were forced to shut down.

Michaelides described TV at this time as the archetypal swan, because while everything looked pretty rosy for television as consumers’ TV consumption increased sharply during lockdown, it was having to paddle furiously to stay afloat. On the one hand, with everyone in lockdown audiences had grown massively, with viewing figures we hadn’t seen in more than a decade, he recalled. However for all the same reasons that demand was growing, the pipeline for new programming was drying up…To make matters worse, we make most of our money from advertising and although viewing was up the advertising market had crashed. Because with many industries disrupted and effectively shuttered, they were understandably pulling their advertising spend. He said UKTV was also massively disadvantaged compared to the likes of Amazon and Netflix, as their subscriptions and revenue were rocketing at little to no cost.