Why so serious? Sky and DDB ramp up the drama with cinematic, poetic brand ad

Over the past few years, Sky has favoured the humorous approach in its ‘My Happy Place’ advertising. Its new ‘Come with us‘ brand was rolled out around the start of August and, while a series of relevant movie quotes dotted around HQ certainly gave the brand a sense of whimsy, its big, cinematic and poetic TVC by DDB and Ruskin is a much more serious, intriguing and emotive affair that’s designed to showcase the range of quality content subscribers can access.

The campaign launched on Sunday and DDB’s executive creative director Andy Fackrell says the idea was to give it a sense of scale and world-class production values. And he thinks it’s achieved that goal. 

“If we didn’t create that scale or sense of quality, then we wouldn’t be living up to some of the content that’s coming out of the network.” 

There is certainly a major focus on drama in the ad, and Fackrell says that’s because it’s “trying to celebrate the golden age of television and the new ways of storytelling and character development” seen in many of the HBO and AMC shows. 

“It’s less of an ad and more of a trailer; a journey,” he says.

He says it’s hoping to get people guessing and aims to “break down the fourth wall” by having the actors talking directly to the audience, something he says is done well on House of Cards

He says the new style of ad doesn’t mean that Sky’s future campaigns will all be along these lines. Quite the opposite in fact, because the new slogan sets it up to “talk in a lot of different voices” in the future. But he does say it wanted to change the advertising to showcase the quality of the programming, rather than simply rely on a gag. 

“Sky at its best isn’t gags or sitcoms. That’s what the other channels are about. At its best it’s Mad Men and Game of Thrones. So it’s right that the advertising should reflect the brand.” 

He says the humorous approach has worked very well for the brand in the past. And while there are elements of humour in the ad, largely as a result of some very clever writing, he say it’s different and “slightly more restrained” to what has come before. 

It’s certainly achieved its goal of looking good and it feels like one of the more expensive ads to have been produced this year. But Fackrell says it wasn’t too pricey, with a tight four day shoot by Nathan Price done in and around Auckland.   

He says there aren’t a lot of shots per scene so they had to be well-constructed. And the shot at the rugby was done in camera (eagle-eyed rugby fans will notice the shot used is of Keiran Read’s disallowed try against South Africa recently). Fackrell jokes that no money changed hands to get Read to go for that particular corner, but they guessed right when setting up for the shot. 

The music needed to have a “big, cinematic feel”, so it was done in London by Soundtree, which has just finished up on Jonathan Glazer’s latest film. And the talking chimp was created by world-renowned production house The Mill. 

At this stage, the campaign is heavily slanted towards TV and cinema, but there’s also a big outdoor component and print work to come. There’s not too much in the way of digital activity, but Fackrell says there will be plenty more work in the coming months that “isn’t just TV advertising”. 

Mike Watson, Sky’s marketing director, said in a release: “From live All Blacks matches, blockbuster movies, stylish UK content, gritty U.S. drama, and everything between, it’s impressive. And it’s not just international material; our content has been handpicked and produced by us here in New Zealand for New Zealanders. Together, we’re on a journey and this ad is a striking and clever invitation to come with us and see what we have in store.”

Sky was 44 percent owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp media empire until that shareholding was sold in March. It’s also regularly been in the regulatory spotlight over the years, with complaints about its monopolistic behaviour and a recent ComCom investigation into its exclusive content deals. And that has led to a few perception problems, with research showing there was a disconnect between the Sky brand and the content it screened. There was also a lack of appreciation for the local content it produced, despite the fact that it films 350 live sports events every year (all up, Sky employs around 1,100 people, plus hundreds of contractors and production staff. And that’s grown from less than 100 when it started around 23 years ago). 

The main Sky brand is now being featured more prominently across its sub-brands in an effort to give the service provider a bit more personality (for example, ‘Soho, brought to you by Sky’). And when we spoke with Sky’s head of corporate comms Kirsty Way back in August, she said it would love to be able to help consumers realise what goes on behind the scenes at Sky.

“We’re not just paying for content and rebroadcasting it. And that goes for sports and entertainment. The Soho channel was something we created. There is a lot of content from HBO, but there are some other great sources and we pulled that all together.”

Way admitted growth was much harder to come by now than it was ten years ago, not just because it already has around 847,000 customers, but because of the economic climate and the increased competition. 

“But we add a huge amount of value with our programming experts selecting that content. And we will still keep offering new channels and new product offerings.”


SKY Television:

Marketing Director:  Mike Watson

Brand Manager:  Maurine Talpin

DDB Group New Zealand:

Executive Creative Director:  Andy Fackrell

Creative Director:  Chris Schofield

Senior Art Director:  Gavin Siakimotu

Senior Copywriter:  Natalie Knight

Senior Account Director:  James Blair

Account Manager: Georgia Newton

Agency Producer:  Tania Jeram

Executive Producer:  Judy Thompson

Film Company – RUSKIN:

Director: Nathan Price

Executive Producer: Claris Harvey

Line Producer:  Helen Naulls

DOP:  Ginny Loane

Production Designer:  Rick Kofoed

Post Production:

Editor:  Stewart Reeves from Rock Paper Scissors

Grade:  Vincent Taylor

VFX:  The Mill, New York

VFX/Online:  Stefan Coory at Blockhead

Post Production Facilities:  Blockhead


Soundtree, London

Sound Design:

Soundtree, London

Jon Cooper, Coopers On Franklin

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