The ‘power’ of Attenborough: BBC earns most creatively effective cinema ad of August

The combination of Sir David Attenborough, stunning cinematography and powerful music make the BBC’s Frozen Planet II trailer the most likely cinema ad of August to drive long- and short-term impact, according to The Works study.

After more than a decade, the BBC’s docuseries Frozen Planet returned for its second series this autumn, following a promotional campaign across cinema, the BBC’s own channels, radio and online.

Voiced by the show’s narrator Sir David Attenborough, the trailer asks viewers to “enter a world of ice”, before taking them through shots of barren ice lands and the animals that survive in them. So effective is the combination of Attenborough and the stunning cinematography, that the ad was identified as the most creatively effective in cinema in August by Kantar’s ‘The Works’ study, as measured by public response.

The ad scored highly for its ability to drive an emotional connection with viewers, ranking in the top 6% of all UK ads on its ‘feel good factor’. It also falls into the top quartile on its effectiveness in driving brand affinity, in this case with BBC iPlayer – both measures which have a positive impact on a brand’s ability to drive long-term growth.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Claire McDonald, marketing manager for BBC One and factual content, says improving perceptions of the BBC brand is “always” a measure of effectiveness for any ad the broadcaster produces for its shows.

“We always make sure that we lean into our marketing strategy, which is creating value for all audiences. Our mission with anything that we do is to create value for all and improve perceptions of the BBC,” she says.

While VoD ads have incredible strengths in some areas, an area in which consistently struggle is making it clear which brand the ad is for.

Lynne Deason, Kantar

Trailers at the BBC are a collaborative effort between marketing, the channel, and commissioning. While the marketing team worked on the Frozen Planet II campaign for six months, production worked on the show for four or five years, so it was important to hear what moments they most thought should be showcased, McDonald explains.

“It’s been 11 years since the first series of Frozen Planet, and things have changed dramatically in those years,” she says. “We wanted to showcase the incredible life in those environments and how that’s changed since the last series, [as well as] the incredible cinematography that’s used to capture them.”

Judging by the results of Kantar’s study, the ad more than succeeds against these aims. Produced in association with Marketing Week and the Advertising Association’s Trust Working Group, The Works asked 750 consumers what they thought of five of August’s top cinema ads – 150 consumers per advert.

Participants commented on the “breath-taking” and “stunning” footage, while facial coding reveals the moments in which viewers’ jaws literally dropped while watching the ad.

Source: Kantar’s ‘The Works’.

The ad also falls into the top 10% of all UK ads on a measure of being ‘actively involving’, with the words ‘distinctive’, ‘involving’ and ‘interesting’ used to describe the ad on a “significantly” above average level, according to Kantar’s head of creative excellence, Lynne Deason.

The other standout factor that drove positive engagement with the ad was the voice of Attenborough, with participants describing him as “the legend”, “one of the best in the game”, and “distinct”.

According to Deason, British audiences tend to react well to celebrity talent in advertising, which can “significantly boost engagement” with ads for video-on-demand (VoD) services and programming. But while including the celebrity’s name is normally important to “maximise the positive impact of their inclusion”, Attenborough’s voice “has such power” that identifying him isn’t necessary. In fact, his voice was recognised by 82% of participants.The pros and cons of hitching your brand to a celebrity influencer

For McDonald, producing creatively effective ads for the BBC’s Planet titles is all about “heroing” Attenborough’s role.

“Using his voice for specific assets over the trail, [including] radio and cinema, really helps audiences emotionally connect with the content as well,” she says.

The role of cinema

The BBC’s objectives for its Frozen Planet II campaign were to both drive consumption of volume and bring in new and lapsed viewers to the BBC, by delivering a “really disruptive and relevant campaign which confirms our connection to the natural world”, McDonald explains.

The launch campaign was therefore executed against two pillars, she says. While the second used other paid media channels to target lighter or non-BBC viewers for whom environmental issues are “top of mind” by leaning into the show’s climate stories, the first, which included the campaign’s activity in cinema, was to appeal to existing audiences of the broadcaster’s Planet titles by highlighting the content “they know and love”.

“Cinema just felt like a really natural fit for a show like Frozen Planet, which is beautiful and magical and really leans into that escapism which those familiar audiences know and love,” McDonald says.

Our mission with anything that we do is to create value for all and improve perceptions of the BBC.

Claire McDonald, BBC

On top of the 30-second trailer, the campaign included an accompanying 20-second cinema clip showing a scene from the show in which two polar bears playing with each other, a unique and unexpected behaviour from a typically aggressive species.

“We know from previous campaigns that leaning into really unique elements of the show does best for awareness and intention to watch,” McDonald explains. “Quite often with the Planet titles, the content speaks for itself.”

According to Kantar’s Media Reactions 2022 survey, cinema is the second most preferred media channel among consumers, and is especially popular among Generation Z, Generation Y and women. The analytics firm’s data also shows that campaigns are seven times more impactful among receptive audiences.

“While it may not offer the reach of some channels, cinema advertising doesn’t compete with the same distractions that advertising in many other channels must. Cinema goers represent a captive audience waiting to be entertained,” says Deason.

“Far from garnering a frosty reaction, Frozen Planet II provides just what people are looking for in the context: a gripping, enjoyable, cinematic experience.”How BBC Three is attracting ‘hard-to-reach’ audiences with its return to live TV

Deason also highlights the “huge influence” music can play in how people respond to advertising, and the “critical role” it plays in the effectiveness of ads for VoD, as well as ads in cinema generally.

“The music in this ad was actively enjoyed by 77% of our sample. It combines with what we see happening to create the jaw dropping effect and captivating reactions observed through facial coding,” she explains.

Leave them wanting more

The main goal of VoD advertising is to leave the audience wanting to watch more, so to be effective, it has to make people “feel something”, Deason says. While the best ads usually leave people feeling good, VoD advertising can evoke negative emotions due to the nature of its content.

With its themes of climate change, this Frozen Planet II ad does bring some sadness. However, according to the study, the feelings evoked were predominantly positive, with the ad landing in the top 3% of all UK ads on enjoyability. Over a third (39%) of participants said they enjoyed watching the ad “a lot”, compared to a norm of 18%.

Credibility was also high, with the ad almost in the top 20%. Some 82% of viewers agreed the information delivered with the ad felt believable.

The content showcased also had a positive halo effect on people’s feelings about BBC programming. Almost nine in 10 (87%) agree the ad conveys that BBC iPlayer has “fascinating” programmes to watch, while the same number endorse iPlayer’s programmes as “highly entertaining”.

However, while Deason says the ad’s branding for BBC iPlayer is “much better” than most VoD ads, it falls at around average level when compared to ads in general.

“While VoD ads have incredible strengths in some areas, an area in which consistently struggle is making it clear which brand the ad is for. You can’t win subscribers – or viewers in the case of the BBC iPlayer – unless people can remember which provider the ad was for,” she warns.

“People are inherently lazy and have to be really invested in finding a particular programme to search across platforms for it.”



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