Freeview looks to drive ‘active choice’ with new brand building campaign

Once ubiquitous in UK households, Freeview has become a brand only passively engaged with. The platform hopes to change this with a new campaign, while attracting younger audiences and pushing its credentials in innovation.

In 2019, 27 million UK households had at least one television in their home. In amongst Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer and Sky, millions of those TVs will offer viewers access to Freeview, the free digital TV platform.

But while the widespread reach of its service means it claims a substantial audience, Freeview’s marketing boss acknowledges that it may have become seen as a “default offer”.

The business therefore sees a “massive opportunity” to drive “active choice” and build stronger associations with its brand, engaging viewers and creating further inroads with younger audiences. As part of this ambition, Freeview has unveiled a new brand advertising campaign.

“There are definitely people who perhaps don’t know that they have Freeview TVs in their house,” says head of marketing Neema Shah, speaking to Marketing Week.

“So one of the things we are trying to do is drive what we describe as active choice. Making sure that when people go to buy a TV, they want a Freeview Play TV because they recognise what it offers – which is free, affordable content all in one place. And making sure that there is that connection with us as a brand as opposed to becoming a default offer, which maybe in the past has been the case.”

Active choice is a metric the brand regularly measures and has seen increase over recent years, Shah claims.

We haven’t given up on young people and I don’t think they’ve given up on us. That’s a massive opportunity.

Neema Shah, Freeview

Launched today (26 October) during The Great British Bake Off, Freeview’s new TV campaign celebrates its free range of programming with an animated spot centred on two alien characters. The Queen is on the brink of invading Earth when her assistant Colin interrupts, having picking up some Freeview channels on the spaceship screen. After becoming enthralled, the duo abandon their enslavement plans to watch a show.

Following a 60-second launch ad, the campaign – created by Anomaly – will be adapted to showcase the most popular shows of the moment in a series of 30-second cuts, which will also feature content from the likes of Amazon Prime and Now.

The campaign will run across ITV and Channel 4, as well as on-demand on ITV Hub and All 4 to reach a younger audience. This will be supported by video advertising on platforms including YouTube and Facebook. Through its social media channels, Freeview will then adopt a long-term strategy to build out the new brand characters.

“What we wanted to do is to create a campaign that still puts content at the front and centre of what are doing, as we know that drives emotion, but also reminds people of all the great content that we have on the platform, because sometimes people forget that they’re actually watching it on Freeview or its available on Freeview,” Shah says. “We absolutely wanted to make sure we’re reminding viewers of that.”

But the brand also needed to create something memorable by making its creative work as hard as possible, as it can’t match its industry competitors on budget. Seeing how hard characters can work for brands, such as Compare the Market’s meerkats and Churchill, was the inspiration behind Freeview creating its own.

“They’re a great vehicle for showing off all the brilliant things about Freeview,” Shah says.

However, with so much competition from online streaming platforms and pay-TV, Shah admits that viewing is not quite as ubiquitous as it was in the past.‘We’re creating a category’: Why Sky is investing in its biggest ever marketing campaign for Sky Glass

“It is a challenge from that point of view, because that viewing is becoming slightly more disparate,” she says.

However, Shah wants consumers to know that viewing is not as disparate as they might think and perception versus reality “is slightly different.”

Indeed, the campaign launches as the brand’s on-demand platform, Freeview Play, hits a milestone of 10 million users. The platform is also the biggest in the UK in terms of viewership.

Crucially, the business is non-profit and is funded by the UK’s main broadcasters. Freeview therefore doesn’t necessarily want to discourage viewers from watching content on other platforms, telling viewers to get their free content on Freeview and top up with the likes of Amazon Prime and Netflix.

“What we want to make sure is that people have an affordable way to get most of their content,” Shah says.

“We still feel that Freeview is relevant and we want to continue to remind people that it’s relevant. But it’s definitely a more challenging environment that we’re operating in.”

Making inroads

On top of active choice, Freeview sees opportunity both in attracting younger audiences and pushing the platform’s credentials in innovation.

Though a mass market product, Freeview’s heartland audience is among those over 40 years old. But Shah claims that the platform is making inroads with younger segments as well.

“Linear is a challenge, but they’re watching a lot on demand. And there are still certain shows that even younger segments will be watching live, like Line of Duty,” she explains.

“We haven’t given up on them and I don’t think they’ve given up on us. We see those people as somewhere where we can build resonance and remind them that we have all this content, which they are watching already. So that for us is a massive opportunity.”

Meanwhile, the new campaign also highlights Freeview’s multi-platform nature, with the service accessible on TVs, online and on mobile. Shah believes this will appeal to younger segments without alienating older audiences.

We still feel that Freeview is relevant and we want to continue to remind people that it’s relevant. But it’s definitely a more challenging environment.

Neema Shah, Freeview

Indeed, Freeview wants consumers to see it as a “forward looking platform”, Shah adds.

“We might not be launching the most innovative things first, but we are fast followers and have done innovative things,” she says, noting the brand’s accessible TV Guide is a first for the industry.

“That’s quite astonishing when you consider our budgets compared to others. Making inroads in those areas is important from a brand point of view, but also just from a viewer point of view and making sure no one’s getting left behind.”

Freeview is continuing to evolve and innovate, she adds, with further product developments to come in the next year and further integration of linear with on-demand content “in ways others in the industry aren’t doing”.

“There are still opportunities to remind people that we are moving forward, and we absolutely are moving forward and growing,” Shah concludes.

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