How ITV became Better Together


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Background information

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” This week’s egtabite shows how ITV took Socrates’ quote to heart as it launched its new strategy based on a simple question: ‘What can we do better?

In collaboration with the marketing consultancy AAR Group, ITV conducted 40 one-on-one interviews with agencies to gauge their sentiment about ITV. What are they feeling? What isn’t working? The agencies’ crystal-clear feedback led to some valuable course corrections: a ‘Better Together’ strategy and the adoption of 3 new ways of working within ITV: Always be in Beta, Celebrate your Superpower and Create conversations.

Always in Beta

Where in the past, ITV was too protective of its work, the sales house began inviting partners upstream into the innovation pipeline, to experiment together.

A clear example is the hackathon innovation mindset adopted by ITV AdLabs, with partners joining to develop the future of TV advertising at speed. The strategy has already brought 27 ground-breaking beta pilot projects to market since November, such as interactive shoppable ads with a QR creative overlay, automated contextual targeting, advertising in the Metaverse and a share-of-voice dashboard that reports daily TV share-of-voice relative to competitors.

Celebrating our Superpower

Celebrating our Superpower means helping brands better understand the mainstream culture, and leveraging ITV’s ability to bring the nation together.

One comment in the AAR research hit home: “ITV knows its mainstream audiences so well. They have all this stuff, but they bury it and don’t share it with us”. So, the sales house shared its most comprehensive cultural research ever.

What Unites a Kingdom identifies the social and cultural DNA of the nation today in a multi-disciplinary and multi-staged study.

The research provides insight into the big, deep stuff that underpins who the British people are, by identifying 5 codes of British culture that act as glue to bring the nation together.

For example, Dream Big where Brits like to support underdogs, full of imagination, who carve their own paths (such as Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford giving back to his community). The findings were shared in presentations and workshops, and partners were given unfettered access to an abundant source of stories, video, photography, stats and insights.

Another example was Feeling Seen, a study on how diverse advertising unites, in partnership with System1 Group and diversity experts DECA. The research analysed over 10k interviews with the general population, and also with groups represented across 30 ads. The findings showed how authentic advertising delivers a diversity dividend to those represented, to society, and brands’ ROI.

Creating conversations

Instead of one-way sales pitches, ITV started a different kind of conversation, with better work based on more inspiring insights.

New conversations happened through ITV AdVentures Invest, which took minority equity stakes in early-stage digital natives and D2Cs in return for advertising. For example, ITV invested in Feel, a tailored vitamin postal subscription company, in location platform what3words, utility service ismybillfair, and online men’s clothing brand spoke.

Other examples include Conversations around Climate Action Week, which led to the creation of ITV Home Planet: an initiative that brought together brands with sustainable products and services – such as eBay, Co-op and Sainsbury’s – to showcase the changes that audiences can make to live sustainably.

Conversations with Marks & Spencer led to Cooking With The Stars: a primetime ad-funded show, featuring 200 M&S ingredients, sponsorship idents, social content, and in-store licence activation.

Better together

The new culture has been built from within, with team members taking the initiative to support one another, share learnings and have fun.

A few of the many initiatives: ITV has partnered with Google’s Black Founders Fund, to support start-up businesses frequently underserved by V.C. investment, started a Diversity Commissioning Fund, to commit £80m of the content budget over 3 years to drive change towards racial and disability equity, and launched Disability Access Passports, to remove barriers and help colleagues to discuss their access requirements with managers and peers.

Across 2021, our Commercial team delivered the single biggest revenue in ITV’s 67-year history. Total revenue was up 24% on 2020, and 11% up on 2019. When we unleashed ‘Better Together’ upon 1,000 customers in November’s ITV Palooza at the Royal Festival Hall, our rallying cry was “Hold us to account!”and we’re proud to say that this strategy continues to make us better,” says Chris Goldson, Director of Commercial Marketing & Pitch Development at ITV.