|Formation||15 February 2005|
|Purpose||Marketing of television advertising|
|Channel 4, ITV, Sky Media, Turner Media Innovations, UKTV|
Thinkbox is the marketing body for the main UK commercial TV broadcasters – Channel 4, ITV, Sky Media, and Turner Media Innovations. UKTV joined Thinkbox in January 2011. Its aim is to work with the UK marketing community to help customers get the best out of television in all its forms. In 2013 Thinkbox was voted by the advertising industry as Industry Body of the Decade.
Thinkbox was launched in February 2005 with a consortium consisting of eight companies, and was initially run as a virtual organisation. In 2006 the group changed direction, hiring Tess Alps as the CEO and undergoing significant internal changes, including the loss of one of the original eight companies involved in creating the organisation. Five left the organisation at the end of 2010.
Thinkbox's activities include supporting research into aspects of marketing using television, supporting various television marketing awards (including their regular Thinkboxes), running a series of events and training programs, and providing information to marketers about television advertising.
In recent years, Thinkbox has won a number of awards including Media 360s Industry Body of the Decade, which was voted for by the advertising community; Best Business to Business Marketing at The Marketing Society Awards for Excellence; the Grand Prix award for Best Media Research of the Year from the Media Research Group; the awards for Advertising and Media Research from the Market Research Society; and its TV advertising has been awarded by The British Television Advertising Awards/ The British Arrows, the APA, D&AD and Creative Circle. Thinkbox's 'Harvey the dog ad' was voted 2010s Ad of the Year by a poll of ITV viewers, with the follow up TV Ad – 'Harvey & Rabbit' – appearing in Nielsen's study of the Most Liked Ads of 2012 and Campaign's Top 10 TV & Cinema Ads of 2012.In 2010 Thinkbox won the Best B2B Marketing Award at the Marketing Society Awards for Excellence.
Thinkbox was founded in February 2005, by a consortium of eight media companies: Channel 4, Five, GMTV, Sky Media, IDS, ITV, Turner Media Innovations, Viacom Brand Solutions. Thinkbox's budget was set by charging a flat fee to each of the eight member organisations and an additional variable rate tied to their share of the TV advertising market, the new body was developed to improve sales of television advertising. Nevertheless, the member organisations were expected to continue to compete for advertising, and they retained their existing sales departments.
Structurally, Thinkbox began as a virtual organisation, lacking both a dedicated executive body and physical headquarters. Instead of a dedicated executive, the staff working on the project were overseen by a committee consisting of representatives of each of the eight member organisations, and Thinkbox was initially chaired by ITV's Justin Sampson. However, this structure – particularly the lack of an executive body – was met with a degree of criticism from both inside and outside the organisation.
Things changed in 2006. Following Samson's departure from ITV, the role of chair was passed to Channel 4's Andy Barnes and Tess Alps was appointed as the chief executive officer in April of that year. In particular, the appointment of Alps was seen as a positive move by industry commentators: her experience with PHD suggested that she would already be aware of the various personalities and agendas in play, which was highly relevant given the "varying agendas" of the member organisations and the potential for dissent.
Some of this potential for dissent was realised later that year, when, in August 2006, IDS left the consortium. In a statement after its departure, IDS accused Thinkbox of giving in to ITV demands, moving away from a one-member, one-vote model to one which provided greater weight to ITV. (Under the new structure, ITV had gained additional voting power and a veto). Shortly after the departure of IDS, the remaining seven organisations increased the funding being provided to Thinkbox – although the exact figure was not available at the time, it was said to be "substantially bigger" that the £3m which the organisation had been operating with prior to the increase.
In spite of rumours in the first half of 2007 that ITV were considering removing their support from Thinkbox, the remaining seven companies have continued to be a part of the organisation. Since the beginning of 2007 Thinkbox established permanent staff and hired Red Brick Road and MediaCom to handle advertising, media buying and strategic consultancy, and they released their first television advertisements. They also inaugurated the annual TV Planning Awards and the monthly Thinkboxes, ran the second of their Thinkbox Experience conferences, as well as the major Televisionaries conference in 2008. http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/analysis/866008/
In February 2011, Lindsey Clay became Thinkbox's first managing director having previously been the organisation's Marketing Director. In May 2012 Thinkbox announced that Tess Alps would become its Executive Chair and that the Chair of the Thinkbox board would pass to a different shareholder director every year. Julia Jordan, Executive Director, Business & Operations, at UKTV, become Chair of the Thinkbox board.
Thinkbox develops research focused on issues surrounding television advertising. Research studies include: a joint study with the Internet Advertising Bureau (UK) looking at how TV and online advertising work together; an in-depth analysis of how TV sponsorship works; an engagement study examining how consumers engage with TV ads; two "payback" studies with PricewaterhouseCoopers examining the impact of TV advertising on long- and short-term sales and brand equity; a study into "Generation Whatever", looking at the lives of young people and their media consumption; an analysis of attitudes towards online TV and how it works with established broadcast TV.; a study with Mediacom examining the impact of television on immediate web response and other short-term response channels; a joint study with the IPA which analysed the correlation between campaigns' performance across a wide range of the worlds' most respected creative awards determined by The Gunn Report, and their performance in hard business terms recorded in the IPA Effectiveness Awards Databank between 2000 and 2008; a 'TV Together' study that explored the shared viewing experience and the phenomenon of social networking in relation to TV; and a 'Tellyporting' study with Decipher, which involved equipping families with the latest TV technologies to study their impact on TV viewing behaviour.
In 2007 Thinkbox, in combination with Campaign and MediaWeek, announced the formation of the TV Planning Awards. The awards were first granted in 2008. In addition, monthly awards, called the Thinkboxes, were inaugurated in May 2008. Working in conjunction with Haymarket Brand Media, the awards are judged by a "Thinkbox Creative Academy" consisting of approximately 100 representatives of the marketing and advertising industries, and are focused on awarding creativity in regard to television advertising.
Advertising and publishing
Initially campaign development was handled in-house, but in 2007 Thinkbox decided to engage an outside agency. The result was the hiring of Red Brick Road, who were engaged to handle Thinkbox's advertising, online and direct marketing requirements. In 2008 Thinkbox went further, hiring MediaCom to handle their media buying and planning, as well as to provide strategic advice. Under this new approach, Thinkbox's first television advertising campaign – which went on to be awarded by D&AD, the BTAAs, and the APA – was launched in May 2009, with a roadblock advertisement presented across multiple channels.
In September 2010 Thinkbox launched its second TV advertising campaign, featuring a couple visiting a dogs' home to choose a dog to adopt. They encounter a dog called Harvey, played by Sykes, who has made a TV ad. Harvey turns on a TV behind him which plays out an ad showcasing his amazing skills such as playing chess, doing the school run, cooking, ironing, and cleaning windows. Harvey's ad ends with the line 'Every home needs a Harvey'. The soundtrack to the ad is Bachman-Turner Overdrive's 1974 classic 'You ain't seen nothing yet'. The ad ends with the lines 'Discover the power of TV advertising at www.thinkbox.tv' and 'Television: where brands get their breaks’. The ad featuring Harvey the dog was voted Ad of the Year by ITV viewers in December 2010.
In May 2012 Thinkbox launched a second TV campaign featuring Harvey the dog. In this new ad, Harvey used emotional story-telling to change his owner's behaviour dramatically and persuade him not to throw away his best friend and constant companion, a stuffed toy called Rabbit. It opens at the moment that Harvey’s owner is about to put the well-worn, slobber-covered Rabbit in the bin while Harvey is apparently not around. Harvey suddenly appears and plays a TV ad telling the story of how he and Rabbit became friends and the scrapes they’ve got into together over the years.
The organisation's first website was launched in May 2005, and was intended to be used to provide industry data, research findings, and case studies. The site was relaunched a year later, and, after an investment of £250,000, it had been modified to include new features such as television advertisements and industry directories. In 2008 they engaged in another revamp, redesigning the site so that the focus could be extended, incorporating content regarding some of the newer technologies such as IPTV, and providing greater access to their research and materials. Since the most recent revamp Thinkbox have continued to develop their website, adding features such as an online calculator that advertisers could use to predict the cost of interactive TV ads.
Thinkbox's content team produce films on TV and TV advertising, many of which can be watched on its website.
Thinkbox hosts events on TV advertising featuring well-known industry figures. Thinkbox's planning team runs a series of training courses. The courses are aimed primarily at people who have recently joined a media agency, advertising agency or advertiser but are also available to new starters at broadcasters or sales houses.
The first major event funded by Thinkbox was the 2005 "Thinkbox Experience" – a short conference that was attended by approximately 600 delegates and which was generally well received by the industry. A second Thinkbox Experience was not held in 2006, as the organisation decided to direct their efforts towards research that year. As a result, the next conference was held in 2007.
Thinkbox hosts a rolling programme of events designed to help people understand how to get the best of TV. The events are often held to launch new Thinkbox research. Recent events include 'Screen Life: TV in Demand', 'TV Nation', 'POETIC: connecting paid, owned and earned media', 'TV Creativity: the art of the heart', and 'Advertising Effectiveness: the long and short of it'
- Jeremy Lee, Marketing, 24 August 2010 'UKTV reinstates Thinkbox membership' http://www.brandrepublic.com/news/1023713/UKTV-reinstates-Thinkbox-membership/?DCMP=ILC-SEARCH
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- Mark Sweney, The Guardian, 9 September 2010 http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/sep/09/dog-thinkbox-tv-advertising
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- Thinkbox – official website.