TV information service Teletext has only ever had one rival, BBC Ceefax, since it launched in the late Seventies. But the Internet and digital TV revolution is posing a real threat to its survival – and is forcing it to reinvent itself.
The service, which in some ways was the “prototype” Web, has appointed Delaney Lund Knox Warren to its &£12m advertising account (MW last week). The agency will reposition the brand across a wide range of media platforms in an attempt to move away from the “clunky” traditional analogue image.
The service is available through digital TV and the Net, and the company has promised an extensive overhaul of its brand to win new consumers and retain existing ones.
Although it will not comment on the new look, Teletext has also appointed Basten Greenhill Andrews to create a brand identity. The consultancy will present the new identity to the Teletext board this week.
New ads will break in the autumn, backed by an &£8m media spend, to promote the fact that the service is already available through new media platforms.
Teletext’s analogue TV service, which is available on ITV and Channel 4, has a weekly viewing figure of 23.5 million, according to BARB figures, and is available in two-thirds of UK households.
The company claims it influences the largest chunk of the UK holiday market. Ten per cent of package holidays and 15 per cent of flight-only holidays are bought after viewing its service.
Teletext head of business development Neil Johnson says that although it carries other advertisers such as cinemas, holidays are Teletext’s main source of revenue. So far, this has remained unaffected by the introduction of rival websites such as Lastminute.com, but Johnson acknowledges the company must defend itself.
“We are obviously not in competition with the holiday companies that run ads on our site, as we are just providing a marketing channel for them to access customers.
“Both our revenue and audience have continued to grow since the Net took off, but competition is increasing.”
The company is keen to be known not simply as a shop window for holidays. It believes it must make its consumers take a more active role with its service. It wants them to use it for more than just “looking up what is on the TV”.
Delaney Lund chairman Greg Delaney says: “Teletext needs to increase awareness of the breadth of information service and platforms for access. It also needs to deepen its relationship with the consumers.
“The service has changed, it is available on the Net, on digital TV and through your mobile and it needs to draw people’s attention to this,” he adds.
The new digital service, available on ONdigital through Telewest and Cable & Wireless, has a completely different look to the more old-fashioned appearance of the analogue – it is colourful and carries pictures.
“Our overriding ambition is to take Teletext customers from being analogue to digital,” says Johnson. “Our other big ambition is to make our service consistent on all platforms.”
The operation has deals with most of the mobile phone companies, and is listed within their portals. It provides what it refers to as “bite-sized” wireless application protocol (WAP) information that is constantly updated, including news, sport, weather, finance and holidays.
Its Net service www.teletext.-co.uk is a general consumer site offering regionalised information. An overhaul of the website is planned to coincide with the new brand identity. And the site, which receives 1 million visits a month, will be updated with more content.
Teletext has previously had a modest ad budget of &£3.5m. With other news and rival websites spending as much as &£10m on launches, Teletext has recognised it must increase its budget substantially when it relaunches and has pledged to spend &£4m in the spring. But the new brand identity will not include a new name.
“The name Teletext is quite boring compared with all the wacky dot-coms,” says a design consultant, “and it must update its Seventies image. But it is a trusted brand – it just needs to be a bit more up to date.”
Teletext’s plans seem well timed. Digital TV is still in its infancy, and it already has a familiar name to make its website address easier to remember. Its WAP phone service will have to be simple and easy to use, and it must tie all the services together with one simple brand message.
But whether it will be enough to encourage consumers to go beyond their traditional use of the service – weather, news, holidays and sport – and seek out its other functions, such as cinema availability and share prices, remains to be seen.