Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Virgin Media's Multiplatform Strategy for 'Britain's Got Talent' Paves Way For New Ad Opportunities

By Kate Bulkley

Hollywood Reporter

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For MIPTV April 04, 2012

Insiders at MIP say traditional advertising models need to move beyond the thirty second spot.

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What do Simon Cowell, U.K. cable operator Virgin Media, Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt and U.K. broadcaster ITV all have in common? It may sound far fetched, but the answer is Britain’s Got Talent, the blockbuster U.K. series that returned to TV screens this month. In addition to once again generating huge ratings, the show's partnership with Virgin Media is proving to be a model of how brands and broadcasters are changing traditional advertising, a key talking point this week at the MIPTV programming market in France.

Using Talent as the hub, the companies' partnership includes TV spots featuring Usian Bolt (the fastest man on the planet) promoting Virgin Media’s speedy broadband as part of its “Keep Up” marketing campaign, a Virgin Media-created online talent school launched this past weekend that features entrepreneur Richard Branson and brand extensions into Virgin Media retail shops.

The idea of multiplatform partnerships between brands and TV is gaining legitimacy as broadcasters move beyond selling traditional thirty second ad slots. Here's what the experts at MIP are saying about this brave new world:

"It varies around the world, but 20% to 30% of our advertisers are adding access to other platforms to more traditional sponsorship and spot advertising," said Dave Sibley, executive vice president and managing director of Viacom International Media Networks. Silbey presented a case study about brand CK1 that included plenty of social media elements into a campaign that reached 200 million 16-to-34-year olds.

"The game is up guys, you cant keep doing what you have been doing because advertisers have stopped interrupting content. For too long the commercial partners and the content has been disconnected. But I am here to tell you that it is possible for audiences and brands and broadcasters to be happy together," says Fru Hazlitt, managing director of commercial, online and interactive at ITV. The Britain’s Got Talent partnership with Virgin Media was the brain child of Hazlitt, Nigel Gilbert, chief marketing officer at Virgin Media, Fru Hazlitt and Charles Garland, COO of Simon Cowell’s Syco, the producer of Britain's Got Talent.

Jonathan Mildenhall, the vice president of Coca Cola’s global advertising strategy, underlined how far a big brand like Coke has come, telling a packed auditorium at MIP that advertising in a 24-7 connected world has to be "linked and liquid" so that consumers feel part of an integrated experience. To that end, Coca Cola is willing to put money into creating "content' like online games.

Miramax is also experimenting with direct-to-consumer sites through the online Miramax Experience, which launched in the U.S. last summer on Facebook and has 100 films available for paid streaming."The Miramax Experience still says ‘beta’ on it and it is definitely a learning experience but we have been really delighted with the results especially the social interaction has been fantastic. Just the traffic on the clips has been much higher than we anticipated," said Beth Minehart, senior vice president of global digital for Miramax. Miramax plans to "tweak" the site in the coming weeks including moving to other devices beyond the iPad. "Our intention absolutely is to be global but we are going to take smaller steps and learn."

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