How to discover, format and market globe-trotting brands? Lessons from Sky, BBC Worldwide, Ex on the Beach and BBC Sport

In case you missed my article in Broadcast magazine this week… here it is!

What are the skills needed to discover, format and market globe-trotting brands? Linda Green asks five creatives working in areas across the industry

  1. Don’t be prescriptive. Trust gut-based creative leaps of faith.

Denny Tu
Head of planning and strategy, Sky

Sky’s in-house creative agency has a mammoth task: to deliver an incredible amount of advertising and promotion from 300-plus people.

Creative and brand leadership is at the heart of what we do at Sky, putting customers at the centre of everything. As a commercially minded FTSE 100 company, we must always balance our commercial focus (testing the shit out of everything) with our creative instincts – those ‘gut-based’ leaps of faith; the pieces of work you just know make you feel something.

On Game Of Thrones this year, we had mountains of data and research, but as fans of the show, our instincts were to put the characters at the heart of the campaign, with bold messaging to bring to life one of the most epic dramas on the planet. Our instincts were right and we delivered both audience growth and some of the best numbers since launch.

  1. Encourage creatives to look in the ‘interesting dark corner’

We must always remind ourselves that 95% of creative teams’ ideas are rejected on a daily basis. They respond to positive feedback, not negative direction. At Sky, when we feed back on ideas, it’s not about cutting down great metaphoric branches of their ideas; instead, we encourage them to look at the bud that needs more light, or to look in the ‘interesting dark corner’ in the room that nobody else is looking at.

  1. Encourage diversity in your talent

Fin Kennedy
Artistic director, Tamasha Theatre Company

Since the success of East Is East back in 1999, it’s been clear that the UK’s diverse talent can create work that resonates abroad. I’m passionate about driving the crossover of Asian culture into the British and global mainstream, and that has led me to put a lot of focus on developing new talent.

At Tamasha, we have various schemes for developing new, diverse talent and ideas such as Tamasha Playwrights, a year-long pilot scheme for new writers. We have also provided a range of new platforms for ideas including ‘Schoolwrights’, which offers playwrights-in-schools training; ‘Taxi Tales’, in which cabbies perform in cars; and our online podcast dramas on Tamasha Radio.

The greatest challenge in an age of austerity is to keep attracting the large co-production and funding needed to invest in writers and their ideas. However, at Tamasha we are also acutely aware that to maintain a vibrant, diverse and culturally rich creative industry, we must be more pro- active and deliberate in supporting and allowing access to the profession for the UK’s BAME and working-class talent.

  1. It’s not the right idea, it’s the right idea at the right time

Kate Phillips
Head of formats, BBC Worldwide

The line that there are ‘no bad ideas’ is nonsense. There are hundreds of them and I’ve had many myself. But you should never be afraid to voice them as they can kickstart different discussions and new ideas evolve as a result.

Anyone working in development will have dozens of stories about the idea that got away; how they had an idea years ago that is now a huge success. And that’s the key: it’s not about the right idea, it’s about the right idea at the right time.

There is a danger in creative industries of over-complicating ideas. The best, most successful formats are the simple ones. Multiple format points often evolve in production or over several series, but in the first instance, the sell is all about having a clear, core concept – and a USP. For example, at Mast Media we had great success some years ago with the hidden-camera show Oblivious, with the strapline: ‘The gameshow you don’t know you’re playing’.

  1. Find your voice and play to your strengths

Mike Carr
Sports editor, BBC Radio 5 Live

Since we set up BBC Sport’s social media team in May 2013, we’ve gone from 3.1 million fans and followers to 19.3 million. And as we keep learning about our platforms, we develop new ways to tell our stories, so that more of our content is seen by more people, more of the time.

It has not been easy. As a long-form journalist, I understand the reticence to adopt a digital journalistic style over a well-sculpted piece, but it’s even harder to ignore the rising importance of modular, digital storytelling.

Ultimately, it’s about getting your great content out there, identifying what content plays to your strengths and finding ways that work for you.

At BBC Sport, we’ve found that it’s important to focus on finding your voice; what makes you unique and distinctive in your market. In September 2014, BBC Sport’s social media content changed from being similar to the website to a new, more relevant tone, with a warm, witty, emotive and succinct voice. By May 2015, referrals had risen from 2.9 million to 29.1 million.

  1. Three killer ingredients: format, title and packaging

Lisa Chapman
Managing director, Whizz Kid Entertainment

When Caroline Roseman in our development team came up with the concept for Ex On The Beach, we knew straight away there was something special in the format because of the wide demographic of people in the room it appealed to. Whatever age group, whether you’re gay, straight, single or not, we’ve all got exes. And what’s the worst that could happen with your ex? Sitting on a beach on holiday when you see them walk over, trapped and with nowhere to escape to. We knew then that we had the makings of a killer format – one so simple that you could describe it in one sentence.

We originally pitched it with a different title and it didn’t get away in the UK or the US, but then a few months later we resurrected it, hit upon the title Ex On The Beach and re-pitched it. The killer title tipped it over the line – it was then that Steve Regan from MTV really got the show and took the commission forward.

We also had to consider MTV’s core audience of 16 to 34 year-olds. It’s all in the packaging for this audience: the casting, the look, the social media activity and how MTV launched the series with a global play day across its network. Now in its third run, the latest series of Ex On The Beach was the highest-rating so far: growing by 17% in numbers and 23% in share of 16 to 34 year-olds. It proves that the format is still going strong. Though we do have some surprises lined up for the next series to keep people on their toes.