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Box of Tricks: The Method and Magic of the Huge Sky Glass Launch Campaign



As Sky launches its own TV, marketing director Sunny Bhurji talks about building a brand from scratch and the communication challenges of this surprisingly disruptive new offering, writes Laura Swinton

Box of Tricks: The Method and Magic of the Huge Sky Glass Launch Campaign
UK media company Sky are quite excited about their new offering. The launch this week kicked off with a romp through televisual history, from the first broadcast in 1921, through to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, the moon landing in 1969 and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Sky Glass, the launch event suggests, is a true turning point in television. And they really do believe in it judging by the scale and ambition of the campaign. Rumoured to be one of the most expensive ad campaigns in the UK ever, Sky hopes that the first phase of launch will reach 99% of the UK adult population and deliver 1.3 billion OOH impressions.

It’s a big play - and Sky are determined to make sure that no one misses it. “We created a TV and we wanted to make sure that the campaign also lived up to that. We’re disrupting different categories. We’re also creating a whole new category. And so, with that you need a marketing campaign of a good level behind it,” says marketing director Sunny Bhurji. 

So, what is Sky Glass - and why does the Sky team believe it’s so disruptive? IT sees the company, known for supplying TV via satellite and set top boxes, into the world of TV manufacturing. By rolling everything into one TV, they’re doing away with the need for multiple wires and satellite dishes. At the launch event in Greenwich London, much is made of the experience-led design, based on Sky’s understanding of how people watch TV and their decades of experience as first a satellite broadcaster and later a content and telecoms provider. This isn’t a mere white-labelling exercise - in order to achieve their ambition they’ve had to make it themselves rather than partner up with an existing TV manufacturer. 

“We understand content and how people like to consume it and that makes us different from any other TV brand,” says Dana Strong, group CEO at Sky.

Sky Glass also allows people to buy TV and media in a new way. People can get a set via a pay monthly contract - similar to a smartphone model - which bundles together Sky TV access as well as apps like Netflix. It’s a shift comparable to the auto industry’s move to become a subscription-driven ‘mobility industry’. Of course, it also sends a signal to the streaming services - in the heated streaming and content wars, Sky gets to be both a content provider and a gatekeeper. 

There’s a lot going on, so marketing Sky Glass is no small job. For one thing, the team had to create a whole brand from scratch. The Sky Glass name carries a hint of Alice in Wonderland and the brand identity is infused with magic, inspired by the Arthur C Clarke quote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Colourful pixels, representing the image quality and billion onscreen colours.

“With any brand development you would look to create something that is distinctive and ownable and that can flow through. So these pixels originally came from the pixels that were making the screen but then we want to have them move, to have a role,” explains Sunny. “Where the magic element came from was the quote from Arthur C Clarke - and it’s true! New technology is indistinguishable from magic. We thought there was something so beautiful about that because we’re merging form and function. What we’re known for is amazing images, amazing content, and this isn’t just a TV, it’s an experience.”

There was also a rather knotty puzzle to untangle - how on earth could one campaign communicate all of the features, potential and benefits of Sky Glass? Figuring that out started with the consumers. Sunny and his team have done extensive qualitative and quantitative research to figure out how best to break down the benefits and walk people through them in a logical, digestible way. 

“We have a really heavyweight three weeks burst where we’re going out and telling everybody that we’ve made a TV with Sky inside, that works over WiFi, no dish, no wires. That's really hyper-focused messaging. And then we will move into phase two, where we will start to dramatise, in an incredible way, all of the great features. We know that we can’t go out and tell everybody everything. We wanted to make sure that we step people through it,” explains Sunny.

‘Sky made a TV’, says the launch ad, simply and starkly. Towards the end of the month we’ll see the magic ignite and storytelling kick in with a wave of fantastical and imaginative ads that dramatise the features and experience.

The campaign isn’t just ambitious in terms of the scale but also its breadth. It encompasses the usual TV and outdoor, but it’s the first real digital-first campaign from Sky. Agency Mediacom helped the team break down the TV buying journey - and as people tend to do research online before deciding to purchase, it made sense to start from there. However, there’s also an extensive physical retail experience facet too which allows people to see the beautiful design up close.

In a stroke of genius, the marketing team is not just approaching this as a tech product launch or a media offering. They’ve taken a lot from the world of furniture and interior design too. From the decision not to plaster the front of the TV with a huge Sky logo to the multiple colourways (including a covetable navy blue), it’s an item that has been designed with the home in mind. 

“We always questioned ‘what does this mean in your home? If you are going to be thinking about the size and shape, the colour and everything to match your home, then why would you want some big logo?’ We also know that when people use this product in their homes, they love it so much that having a constant reminder of Sky isn’t really needed,” says Sunny. 

And so the physical retail experiences include design suggestions and colour swatches to help people think about how to match the TV to their home - or to offer design inspiration. It’s a playful approach to the TV buying experience, which is usually focused on specs and numbers, not colour and shape. This interiors and lifestyle insight has also informed the influencer strategy. 

“The interior design stuff was really cool,” enthuses Sunny, as we chat about his own thoughts about bringing a forest green set into his home. He points to a design station where journalists and creators can check out the design inspiration and swappable soundbar fascias. “There are influencers here today and they do a phenomenal job. What they can do is really dramatise the experience. We all know that actually consumers want to hear and see it. If they can’t physically in the short term, they absolutely want to see it through the influencers.”

With so many elements to juggle, the launch campaign necessarily involved a range of partners. Sky Creative, the UK’s biggest in-house agency, joined forces with companies like AKQA, venturethree, experience agency Amplify, production company Partizan and post house Untold. 

“I think collaboration was key on this because no one agency could have done this. And actually we wanted to challenge ourselves, to make sure we weren’t just pleasing ourselves,” explains Sunny who says that they created a central brand hub.

“Everybody came into the central space - not necessarily physically, a lot of it was virtual because of Covid. But what it did mean was that when something was happening in the development of the brand, you could cascade that through everybody,” he says. “What was really interesting was that everybody was on a journey, an 18-month journey. They’ve all brought different strengths to the game and actually made us think. This kind of collective has actually been a really fantastic experience.”

The brand is more than just a visual entity. Singer Griff, winner of the BRITS Rising Star Award, has written a bespoke new track, which ties together all of the waves of Sky Glass’s launch efforts. However, reveals Sunny, that wasn’t always the plan.

“We wanted to create a sound for Sky Glass and we actually went through quite a journey. There were quite a number of tracks - Could It Be Magic, I Put a Spell on You - tracks that were already in the vernacular that people would go ‘oh, magic, yeah I get it’,” he explains. He and the agency were going through potential artists to approach, and when Griff won the award, he and the agency saw that she could be the perfect artist to come in and cover one of those songs.

But she had other ideas. “It was definitely a learning curve for both of us in a really positive way. We let her loose. We said, ‘don’t worry, you know what the product is, what would you do?’ And she actually said, ‘well, I’d prefer to create a bespoke track’. It was the best decision. When we heard the demo, which was nowhere as refined as what you hear today, it was a mic drop for everyone from the CEO to my execs,” says Sunny. He also says it’s been great to be able to use Sky’s massive platform to support up and coming talent.

Griff sings at the launch event in Greenwich, London

The launch marks the end of an 18-month process for Sunny and his team - though the development of the Sky Glass product has been even longer in the making. As a marketer, Sunny's relished the personal challenge of trying a host of new things, from dipping his toe into the world of lifestyle and interior design to building a brand from the ground up. But now that Sky Glass is out in the world, it will continue to evolve and grow as a brand - just as the product itself has been designed to do. New features, such as a smart camera that will assist with home workouts and allow for a new way to play video games with Sky, were revealed at the launch and are due to hit the market down the line.

For now, the campaign is rolling out in the UK where Sky Glass will be available from October 18th. In 2022, it will hit Sky’s other European markets, though whether the campaign will be exactly the same remains to be seen, though the team now has a whole suite of brand assets to play with. Moreover, Sky Glass will hit Australia where Foxtel has become the first international syndication partner.

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