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Sky has launched a smart TV called Sky Glass, which is intended to radically reposition the business in the streaming age without the need for satellite dishes or set-top boxes. Sunny Bhurji, marketing director at Sky, opens up on 18 “hardcore” months bringing the UK’s biggest-ever product launch to life.

The telecoms giant wants to reach 99% (“99.9%” corrects Sunny Bhurji, Sky’s marketing director) of the UK adult population with a three-month campaign championing the new TV as the much-needed consolidation and simplification the TV sector needs.

Sky research indicated that many TV viewers are frustrated with the complexity of TV. Bhurji argues that there’s been a “proliferation of technology” and we’ve been “trained” to spend all of our time “going in and out of apps” to find our favorite original shows. He’s not wrong there.

The product [launch story here] was created to solve a “frustration around over-complexity and the wastage of time.” But there’s a lot of information to convey with such a radical overhaul of how Sky plans to go to market in the modern TV age. 

The first weeks of the three-month campaign will champion Sky Glass with hero shots of a sleek TV. Some of the biggest frictions to new Sky sign-ups are solved – no more satellite dishes (not available in high-rises or listed buildings), and a one-stop device for those who like a minimalist TV cabinet. From Sky’s perspective, delivering TV over a broadband connection (instead of via satellite) will have product package implications down the line too. Armed with an ultra-high-definition TV, many will look to arm themselves with a worthy web connection. 

Each of eight TVCS created for the campaign feature a bespoke song from 2021 ‘Rising Star’ Brit Award-winner Griff.

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‘The Spell’ stage of the campaign will be followed by ‘The Wizard,’ which will show the magical convenience the tech is purported to grant. This will be where we see a high-production-value film with top talent and directors attached. Sky wants to show the magical ease with which it solves the many TV problems that have sprung up in recent years. 

For a campaign like this, Bhurji says, the difficulty is in conveying the “abundance of features and benefits” the Glass brings – which is reflected in where the campaign will be executed...

The media challenge

The goal is to reach almost every UK adult. Most of us have, and like, our TVs. That’s a broad ocean to cast a net over. In the run-up to Christmas, there will be no avoiding Sky Glass. This is reportedly the UK’s biggest product launch, coming at a cost of tens of millions of pounds.

Sky customers will be upsold on the benefits regularly on its owned properties. “The entire business is galvanizing behind the next big thing,” he adds. Around its hottest properties, anyone considering a TV upgrade or a simplification of their set-up will be nudged. Regularly. 

Meanwhile, outside of that, rival cable subscribers or the streaming generation will need to be convinced it is worth the switch. Enter Sky’s “most digitally-driven campaign ... we know that people will want to find out more. And we’ve got digital content that really leads into their passion points.”

Most of this will lead to a Sky microsite, a tailored buy journey that enables the TV selection (small, medium or large, with five colors) and a suitable content package. Hundreds of hours of thought have gone into making this page easy to navigate and understand.

On the breakdown of the campaign, Bhurji estimates about 55% is going to above the line, and 45% in digital on everything from PPC display (and retargeting), all the way through to YouTube, Spotify, Facebook, Instagram and WeTransfer takeovers. The digital audio takeovers will be voiced by Helena Bonham Carter.

Bhurji defends the really broad targeting parameters. Sky depends on anyone who enjoys watching things on a screen considering this product. It has around 23 million customers in Europe (where the TV will be available from 2022).

Right now, it is focused on cracking the UK. “It’s not by accident that we’re going out to so many people.” And this is baked into the pricing and development of the product. Its cost is baked into the Sky bill on a monthly basis, much like the phone contracts many of us are roped into for the long term. 

“This makes it accessible. And if we made a really premium TV at a really high price point that would have been targeted around a wealthier demographic. We wanted to make sure that everybody got the amazing experience at an affordable price.”

So despite not “necessarily having a target audience,” the campaign’s designed to cater to those at different levels of adoption propensity. Early adopters, those who need a bit more evidence to make the leap, and late adopters. By no accident, at the peak of the campaign 40 million Brits will be within 20 minutes of a retail or pop-up environment where they can try out the TV. “Many will want to touch and feel it.”

Topically, it’s also the first Sky product that’s shoppable on social media. It will be worth checking in to see how many TV packages Sky shifts down these new avenues in the coming months. Social was supposed to kill TV, not sell it...

And, lest we forget about other effective channels, Sky is keen to drive an anticipated 1.3bn out-of-home (OOH) impressions and boasts the first-ever Times newspaper cover wrap. It expects an 86% share of voice in the first three-week period in its sector.

Agency collaboration

From an agency perspective, in-house agency Sky Creative Agency (one of the biggest in the UK) took the lead. It was a bold call to grant an in-house agency the biggest media budget in product launch history. But SCA boss Simon Buglione has ascended to a higher brand position in Sky as the agency delivered ever-more ambitious work beyond its original remit. 

SCA created a ‘Brand Hub’ to assemble the “best of the best of all the different agencies” including Venturethree, AKQA and Amplify. Much of the creative capabilities sit in-house, but for such a huge product launch, every aspect of production and delivery had to be considered. 

18 months ago, this project kicked into gear as we adjusted to working in virtual environments. This eventually became more and more in person as the pandemic risks cooled down. Everything from the logo to the branding to the soundtracks on the final product was up for debate. 

Bhurji says: “We did it as a collective because there’s no one agency that could do all of it end-to-end. You need that kind of collaboration. I’ve never worked with so many different agencies on something so big before and it’s worked really, really well. We will continue to use this model moving forward.”

During its Future of TV deep-dive The Drum explained how the top players in TV are fighting to control the TV dashboard. On a standard smart TV, Sky won’t always be the first software to boot up, risking an erosion of viewers who could navigate their content through, for example, Samsung’s inbuilt software or another external device such as a Roku stick. Putting embedded Sky software into the very fabric of an affordable high-end TV, it’s potentially found an advantage in the CTV advertising war and helped ease pay-TV customer retention.