ITV Showcases Great Characters in New Ad Campaign
As someone who has dabbled in script and fiction writing, I assure you: Your story is only as good as your characters. They are the audience’s vessel for the voyage that is your story. If your characters blow, it doesn’t matter how clever or ingenious your story is—it will sink with them.
It seems the people at ITV, the largest and most popular commercial television channel in the United Kingdom (that airs its shows in the U.S via PBS’s Masterpiece), know the importance of great characters. So much so they built a new campaign around it. “Great Characters Make Great Drama” is the tagline of ITV’s More Than TV campaign—which celebrates its powerful characters, stories and creativity. If its spots The Patriarch and The Guvnor are any indications, they have every reason to celebrate.
The campaign fired on all cylinders here…
1. Writing – Some of this is owed to the second point; regardless, all great scripts start on the page and these were great pages. The Patriarch was dramatic and fatalistic with an Olivear delivery, while The Guvnor was amusingly acerbic and subtly political with tongue ‘n cheek morbidity. Both were expertly written ads that broke the fourth wall and were dangerously self-aware.
2. Acting – One could argue that a script is only as good as the actors delivering it. Well, in this campaign, ITV and director James Marsh (Man on Wire, The Theory of Everything) had the perfect actors. The Patriarch had two-time Olivier Award-winner Roger Allam portraying his Endeavour character, Det. Fred Thursday. It was a stoic, accepting performance, but with humanity—his eyes and body saying as much as his words. In The Guvnor, BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning actress Brenda Blethyn, in character as DCI Vera Stanhope from ITV’s Vera, expertly inhabited that busy-body grandmother who packs a punch with her subtle, biting words. “Would you like me anymore if I was nipped and tucked?”
3. Music – The Patriarch skillfully used Max Richter’s evocative “On the Nature of Daylight,” while The Guvnor graced its images with a quirky, character driven score. It was perfect for DCI Vera Stanhope. The music told us as much about the characters as their ads.
4. Cinematography – Both made expert use of moving medium shots (of shootouts and foot scrubs) and perfectly placed close-ups as the characters broke the fourth wall time and time again. Both ads were colored in a grayish blue that seems to be the signature look of British crime dramas. It was atmospheric and completely set the mood.
The campaign washed up on the beach here…
1. Only Crime? – Does ITV have more to offer than crime shows? I like a good crime story, but if ITV offers more shows, shouldn’t it market those too? I’m sure they have great non-crime characters!
ITV brands itself as a character-driven television channel, which offers powerful stories and originality. So, they made character-driven spots. In the process, they ensnared a new viewer… me.