Thinkbox - In the Spotlight

with Chris Dunne, Head of Marketing

10 January 2023

If you’re a brand or an agency wanting to get a measure on the power of TV advertising, then make Thinkbox, the marketing body for commercial television in the UK, your first port of call. Its mission is to help advertisers get the best from their presence on TV, and it combines a global reach with a granular approach to the hows and the whys of TV advertising. If you want to know in what ways TV is changing and how to find innovative and affordable solutions on the industry’s evolving range of platforms, then turn to Thinkbox. Here, its head of marketing Chris Dunne, who has been with Thinkbox since 2017, looks over the past year and ahead to what may be coming down the pipe.

So, Chris, how has the past year been for you?

With all the necessary caveats about the state of the world, it’s been pretty good, overall.

Personally, it was a year for reconnecting with friends and family, travelling more, having some new experiences, and generally saying ‘yes’ more than ‘no’ when opportunities came along.

And it’s been a remarkable year for TV. TV’s place in our lives grows ever stronger – it’s the finest form of entertainment at a time when we all need as much entertainment as ever.

It’s also been great to see a proper return to live events, getting out to see people in the flesh, and remembering how much we actually like being around other humans.

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Chris Dunne, Head of Marketing, Thinkbox

What’s the big takeaway you’d carry over to 2023?

Other than an astonishingly good tikka masala I had in March, the ad-funded TV model was given a big thumbs up in 2022 as the streamers all began launching ad-funded tiers and this bodes well for 2023 and beyond. The broadcasters, of course, got there first with ad-funded streaming services, and are piling investment into them as they back their digital-first strategies.

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What’s the best idea you had in 2022 and how did it work out?

My best idea was to run the London Marathon and raise a load of money for Mind. My next best idea was to never do it again.

BUT the best idea I had the chance to be a part of came not from me but the great minds at Mother London, and which worked out very well indeed – producing our fabulous new TV ad, ‘Happily Ever After’.

How has ideation and creativity evolved and responded to the real-world challenges of a very challenging 2022?

Definitely a greater emphasis on tone and messaging, taking into account that the majority of businesses and consumers are going through some tricky times, so being more mindful of that than ever, and then how it comes through in the work.

Will remote and hybrid ways of working continue to be the industry norm, and how may that impact the work, how it’s done and who’s doing it?

Absolutely, this way of working is here to stay, but it’s still very much in flux. At Thinkbox we’re still experimenting with different ways of balancing working from home with time together, and I think you have to continue to evaluate it as the same approach won’t work for every team or business.

I’ve found it’s the earlier stages of the creative process where you really can’t beat being in a room together, building an idea and feeding off each other’s energy. But as you get stuck into production, coming together virtually can be hugely beneficial and speed up decision making, so done right it can be the best of both worlds.

What would you choose as the year’s best campaigns or pieces of work, and why?

As ever, it’s those pieces of work that are distinctive and put emotional storytelling at the heart of them. It’s these that we most often see recognised in The Thinkboxes, our own bimonthly award for TV ad creativity.

Some highlights from this year include CALM’s powerful ‘The Last Photo’ by adam&eveDDB, Virgin Media’s epic ‘Why Walk When You Can Ride?’ from VCCP, and the superb comedy performances in Neverland’s ‘Neighbours’ for what3words.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t get another mention in for our own new ad now, wouldn’t I?

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Which Christmas campaign in 2022 won you over?

Tough one – it felt like pretty much everyone rose to the occasion this year and struck the right balance between celebration and being mindful of the current times.

Asda’s ‘Elf’ by Havas was completely brilliant and will do really well for them – I mean, he’s already dressed in Asda green, it’s bloody perfect! And The National Lottery’s ‘A Christmas Love Story’ by adam&eveDDB was gorgeous and charming and delivered all the warm fuzzies that you want at Christmas.

What was the biggest surprise of 2022?

Elon Musk buying Twitter and everything that ensued…

What trends do you see emerging as we focus on the coming year?

I think this year’s batch of Christmas ads showed us that when things are tough, we respond well to being entertained. People need a bit of positivity in difficult times, and I’d love to see more humour come through in 2023. And as people look for ways to both save money and live more sustainably, I imagine more and more brands will lean into that this year and beyond.

What do the British Arrows mean to you, what’s their role in the industry and what’s the impetus behind becoming a sponsor?

The bringing together of creative and craft under one roof is what sets the Arrows apart, and it remains the gold standard, the Oscars of UK ad creativity. The British Arrows is one of our most enduring industry partnerships and it’s a complete pleasure to continue to support the best ads of the year and see the teams behind the work elevated and celebrated.

What do you think will win commercial of the year?!

Ah, that’s for greater minds than mine to decide – but whoever it is, we’ll be there to raise a glass and proudly hand them their gong on the night!

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