Olly Harnett – BBC Creative Director – Our key notes

POSTED ON: 20/02/20 TAGS: BBC Creative Olly Harnett

by katie

Last month BBC CREATIVE Director Olly Harnett, Creative Director (BBC ONE, Radio 2) came in to our Members’ Meeting to talk about some of his recent campaign work.

BBC Creative is the in-house creative team at the BBC, run on an agency model. It was brought in house in 2016 and is made up of around 150 people split between London and Salford.

Here are some of our notes:

HIS DARK MATERIALS marketing campaign case study

Positioning line: tricky title if the consumer hasn’t read the books (or Milton!). Therefore it was important to find the cornerstone of the campaign: ‘one girl will change worlds”. Promises adventure, destiny and excitement.

Marketing challenge: 16 -24 year olds are not watching terrestrial TV. TV trails don’t work anymore. How do we reach them? More OOH activity to reach that audience. Special build OOH for social media pick up. Although shouldn’t seem just like a kids drama.

Campaign activity:

TV TRAIL – very filmic and exciting


His Dark Materials

– Story board artist helped create the layout for creative that was used across OOH. No stills ready so went for an illustrative approach for sign off of concept

-Westfield White City – Billboard featuring an armoured bear bursting out of a billboard, breathing out icy breath. Major social media and marketing industry pick-up

-Ad lifts – important not to be too London-centric. Birmingham and Manchester shopping centre vinyl wraps in lifts with selfie spots, audio featuring actors and added peppermint scent

-Cinema spot. Guaranteed audiences of millennials. Shown 1 week ahead of tx date

Results on launch:

10 million viewers of episode 1 across tv and iplayer

Most successful UK drama launch in 5 years


-Snapchat lens where user can turn themselves into the armoured bear

-Continuity idents – adding motifs from the show into regular BBC idents

-Daemon bot – for superfans. What is your daemon? 40 options. Inspired by illustrations in the novels. INCLUDE LINK.

In summary:

Traditional marketing still has its place but we have to find new, exciting and creative ways to reach audiences, particularly our youth audience, who are key to the future of the BBC

Audience questions:

What are your timelines? Very tight, due to special effects and schedule changes. Ideally 4 months notice to get a team in place. Clips arrived very late so clip-based assets were very close-to-the-wire

What’s the mix of skills within the team? All in-house, but we bring in freelancers into the team when we need them.

What didn’t come off? Had to drop our idea to fly a real-life zeppelin over key UK locations because the only available zeppelin was already booked for an Oktoberfest event.

Other work referenced:

Peaky Blinders fan-art campaign

Dracula shadow billboard

  • Inspired by a Japanese artist who makes shadow art
  • By day – stakes hammered into billboard
  • By night – transforms and the shadow left by the stakes forms the shape of Dracula’s face
  • Front page of Reddit twice, picked up by global media