Foxtel paid four agencies for creative ideas for new $10m subscription campaign

Foxtel paid four creative agencies to draw up ideas for its multi-million dollar marketing campaign, including incumbent Clemenger BBDO Sydney, in an unusual move to exploit what the network branded a “once-in-a-generation” strategy to bolster its subscription base.

Whybin\TBWA, The Monkeys and London-based WCRS, which lists UK’s Sky TV as one of its clients, all received a fee to table their creative ideas for the campaign to promote Foxtel’s cut price packages.

Three of the four ideas were taken to the research stage before Foxtel selected the work put forward by Clemenger.

Executive director of sales and marketing Ed Smith admitted the concept of looking beyond its agency of record for ideas, and paying  companies for their creative input, was a first for Foxtel and was “an unusual approach”.

But he denied it showed a lack of faith in Clemenger or risked undermining the relationship between the agency and Foxtel.

Two 30-second TV ads will form the backbone of the initial $10m campaign to market Foxtel’s $25-a-month entry package, a move announced in September to combat the entry of cheap online streaming services to the market.

They will be supported with press, digital, radio, outdoor and direct response advertising. The crusade, which kicked off last night and is called ‘It’s Foxtel, but not as you know it’, will run until Christmas when a second wave of marketing to promote the $50 sport and entertainment package, down from $74, will begin.

The ads feature big name stars in a movie trailer parody complete with a ‘spaceship’ in the shape of $25 and with a voice over by John Garry, who has trailed many Hollywood blockbusters.

Smith told Mumbrella the importance of the campaign warranted a variety of creative input.

“We said to Clems that if you guys are comfortable we want to get extra creative opinion. Obviously they said ‘we would rather solve it ourselves’ but they also understood where we were coming from,” he said.

“Our view was that you don’t get to halve the price of the entry level price to Foxtel very often. It’s kind of a once-in-a-generation thing and is such a big, bold strategy that we wanted to have the best we could. It’s not unreasonable that we wanted to have a few different creative opinions on something so important. And Clems respected that.

“Normally marketers would think my choice is either to use my agency or pitch the business so it was a really unusual approach where we paid four agencies to come up with concepts. People have probably paid other agencies to look at stuff simultaneously, but we certainly haven’t done that before.”

Smith met the chief executives of Whybins, The Monkeys and WCRS in London to outline his plans to pick their creative brains for a fee. And in another unusual step, he said any concepts developed by the agencies and taken on by Foxtel would be executed by Clemenger.

“They didn’t need to do the normal things in a pitch of working out fees and all that sort of stuff. It literally was just a brief to get creative ideas which we would then work up in our existing relationship,” he explained

“We didn’t pay them huge amounts, but it’s really important if you are going to use agencies and get them to do stuff.”

All were happy with the arrangement and produced “some really good strong ideas”, Smith said, with three ideas explored further.

“That helped us refine the idea and gain insights about what resonated and what didn’t, but the creative we have launched is Clems creative,” he said.

Foxtel’s marketing chief acknowledged that Clemenger could have become concerned had their work not been selected but stressed the two organisations “get on really well”.

“Had I gone with one of the other ideas we would have executed it through Clems marketing engine. We had such a small amount of time and it was such an important brief that it’s inconceivable we would have changed horses and swapped agencies.

“We’ve probably got 40 people working on our business at Clems so it was never an option in my mind.”

Smith said the finished product of the campaign feels “epic” and was in keeping with the scale of the newly-priced packages.

“We said to the agencies this is a once in a lifetime chance for us,” he said. “It is moving from having sales and promotions to try to stimulate growth to an everyday low price and we wanted to make that an epic watershed moment.

“We were probably being a bit too serious and that’s when we decided to use the big movie voice and thought ‘let’s have some fun and take the piss’,” he said.

Smith said Foxtel achieved 5 per cent subscription growth last year – although largely lower price internet delivered product – but he refused to be drawn on how many new subscribers it has targeted off the back of the campaign.

He confirmed however that the price cuts are “certainly about stepping up our rate of growth so we get more penetration more quickly.”

Existing customers have the option to retain their current package but receive additional channels for no extra charge or move to one of the new plans.

Steve Jones


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.