ITV and Channel 4 on how the ad break takeover is reigniting TV advertising

As ITV prepares to air a ‘world first’ ad break takeover during its programming around this weekend’s 90th birthday celebrations for the Queen, the move reflects a wider shift as more and more brands spend big on long-form TV advertising.

During ITV’s two and a half hour live show on 15 May in the presence of Her Majesty, it will air a royal-themed ad break to celebrate the Queen’s birthday. Eleven brands, including Ribena, Walkers crisps and Cadbury Milk Tray are taking part in a commercial that will last almost three minutes.

Created by ITV Creative for ITV Commercial’s content creation arm, the ad (pictured above) will feature celebrities including Paddy McGuinness and Fearne Cotton singing during a street party on the set of Coronation Street.

It isn’t the first time ITV has orchestrated an ad takeover to entice brands, with three of these creations now airing since 2014 including the Knitted Ad Break takeover during last year’s Text Santa charity drive and another promoting The Lego Movie the year before.

The latter, which involved ITV recreating four existing TV ads (from brands including and filming them shot-by-shot with Lego characters, saw particular success when it took over the entire ad break of Dancing On Ice in 2014.

Measuring success

According to ITV, ad and brand related conversations increased by 829% post transmission while nearly 6 million people tuned into watch the Lego Movie takeover ad break live. The average number of tweets mentioning also increased by 200%, with 73% of viewers stating that they’d engage more with advertising if brands thought of similarly creative executions in the future.

Speaking to Marketing Week, ITV’s creative partnerships manager Kim Gilroy said the latest activity around the Queen’s birthday was a ‘world first’ and reflected a hunger among brands to make a bigger splash with their above the line spend.

She explained: “We remembered the BBC’s Perfect Day ad, where they brought all the singers together, and thought how could we do something like this for brands? The Queen’s birthday made perfect sense.

“Brands are looking for a real ROI like never before. It is very tough for marketers. But if we continue to come up with really interesting unique ideas that we can do the heavy lifting on, and if the timing and context is also right, we see massive excitement from marketing directors.”

Mixing spectacle with competition

The #Uncharted4Live ad takeover during Channel 4’s Gogglebox was a big success for Sony Playstation

ITV isn’t the only TV channel seeing success from the ad takeover format.

Channel 4 recently signed up Sony Playstation to take over the whole advertising break during its popular Googlebox show. The takeover, which was used to promote the new Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End title on the PS4, involved videos of gameplay from the title that incorporated questions that viewers were then asked to answer via Twitter for a chance to win prizes.

Chris Braithwate, agency principal at Channel 4 sales, says the campaign resulted in 25,000 entries, trended first on UK Twitter and was a glimpse into the future of TV advertising.

He explains: “Viewers are now watching big shows like Gogglebox and almost expecting something different to happen during the ad break. If it doesn’t, they are disappointed. Brands want to create great drama and make sure people don’t fast forward. The takeover format offers that opportunity and I can see live ad competitions becoming the future as they are far more engaging.”

Getting your money’s worth

Marketing Week understands that Sony spent nearly £300,000 on the ad takeover, much higher than the £50,000 a normal 30-second spot during Gogglebox would cost. But he says the additional spend was more than justified.

“If you get it right it is a lot of PR that’s worth a lot of money and will offer payback quite quickly,” he claims.

Channel 4 recently made Gogglebox viewers watch paint dry during an ad takeover for DIY brand Ronseal, prompting the spot to trend throughout the UK under the #RonsealAdbreak hashtag.

And Braithwaite says Channel 4 now averages one ad takeover a month.He adds: “We now do around one ad takeover a month so there’s certainly been an increase in demand from marketers.

“If they get it right, the ad break takeover can get more viewers than the actual show itself – that’s definitely a trend we keep on seeing.”

Chris Braithwate, agency principal at Channel 4 sales

“We can also promote the takeover in the idents five days before so it becomes a hyped event. From our perspective, marketers are now prepared to give us a bit more of their media budget and let us do something exciting that will really drive cut through and create fame.”

ITV’s Gilroy admits that in an age of budget restraints, the takeover format won’t appeal to every marketer. But she says more and more are prepared to make the leap. ITV, she says, is accelerating the takeover formats it is creating for brands.

She concludes: “The takeover format doesn’t just benefit ITV but those who are prepared to take the leap as well. I’d say more creative use of TV ad breaks is definitely on the radar for us and all our partner brands. The takeover format is a guaranteed creator of conversation after an ad has aired so it just makes sense.”

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