Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

World Cup kick-off for digital switchover promotion

By Kate Bulkley

The Guardian

Friday February 3, 2006

The launch of a 15m national advertising campaign to promote digital switchover featuring Matt Lucas has been brought forward from the autumn to May to catch World Cup fever.

The World Cup: too big to ignore. Photograph: AP

The World Cup: too big to ignore. Photograph: AP

The voice of the Little Britain star will feature in the TV and radio ads.

The campaign will aim to persuade TV buyers to go digital to watch England's matches in the tournament, which takes place in Germany from June 9.

Digital UK, the broadcaster-backed group in charge of implementing the government's plan to turn off analogue TV signals by 2012, will spend 5m in May alone.

In an unprecedented move, the BBC has also committed to airing the Digital UK TV ads in addition to its own redesigned ads promoting digital, which will soon replace last year's highly criticised "bouncing heads" campaign.

Digital UK's national campaign takes over from regional advertising in the Border region that began last November. Border will be the first region in the UK to have its analogue TV signals turned off.

The latest ads will feature an animated cartoon character called Digit-Al voiced by Lucas, who has been signed up to work on the project for seven years. Abbott Mead Vickers, part of advertising agency BBDO, created the character and Mark Denton is directing the spots.

Print media will form be a big part of the national campaign.

The original plan was for the initial national ads to target pre-Christmas TV purchasing, but the Digital UK chief, Ford Ennals, said the World Cup was too big to ignore.

In the six weeks prior to the World Cup, people start to plan how they are going to watch it," he said.

"Even people who don't like football are planning to watch the World Cup. It's a national family phenomenon and we hope they all will gather around a huge, flat-screen digital TV."

Four years ago, prior to the World Cup in Japan and South Korea, Sony recorded a 30% upturn in its UK TV sales.

In 2005's fourth quarter, sales of digital TVs were 30% more than a year earlier, according to figures from market researchers GfK. While cathode-ray tube TVs still outsell flat-screen sets, three-quarters of the value of TV sales in 2005 came from the sale of flat-screen models.

Last month, the head of Dixons said the electronics retailer would stop selling bulky CRT TVs entirely in favour of flat-screen sets by the end of 2006.

Digital UK hopes people upgrading to flat-screen TVs will buy one with an integrated digital tuner that can receive digital TV signals.

According to researchers Screen Digest, the UK is succeeding in moving people to digital with only 7.5m homes out of 26m without at least one digital TV set at the end of 2005.

"Relative to countries like Italy and France, the UK is doing pretty well, but having one digital TV subscription per home does not make you digital," says Guy Bisson, an analyst at Screen Digest

"There is still a way to go in replacing all the VCRs and second and third TV sets."


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