Channel 4 interview with Chris McKay
I've been lucky enough to work with some amazing brands over the years and in 2018, Hillarys were awarded the single biggest television sponsorship - Channel 4's Homes on 4 programming strand. It was an amazing achievement, one that saw us work with TV presenter George Clarke on some exciting content, create dedicated idents that addressed some of our key challenges as a brand and picking up the trophy for 'Best use of Sponsorship' at the 2020 Thinkbox TV Planning Awards.
As part of our collaboration with Channel 4, I was asked to take part in a Q&A to talk about all things innovation, how my career grew and my view on what the future looks like…
How did you start your career in media?
I actually started out as a freelance journalist writing about dance music and part timing at Hallam FM - although I quickly realised I needed a full time job at some point. I stumbled across a PR role and from there it’s kind of snowballed. I ended up in their London office working on some amazing clients but at that point social media was still in its infancy so wasn’t a huge part of campaigns like it is today. I loved it though and wanted to do more so ended up moving to a more social media focused position at Ministry of Sound. Then six years ago, I was offered a job to literally take social media, a channel that was run off the side of the desk and make it into whatever I wanted it to be, which is exactly what I’ve done.
Which skills do you think are most important working in media?
Being passionate is definitely a top one. Working in social media (and digital on the whole) you realise it’s not a 9 to 5 job, so you’ve got to love it and embrace it.
Networking is another big part of the industry so I always tell anyone who wants to get in to media to get out there and join LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, go to events and build up as many connections as possible across all different sectors. I love seeing what other companies are doing, even if they’re not in the home furnishings space.
My role has changed slightly as I’ve progressed at Hillarys, focusing on our suite of ‘Brand Engagement’ channels and not just social media but if you do want to be an expert in something, get out there and consume absolutely everything you can about it. I used to tell myself that if I wasn’t doing that then someone else would be.
Finally, it’s about being brave, whether that’s suggesting something that has never been done before or being prepared that some ideas will fail. In an industry that is moving so fast there is always a ‘test and learn’ approach, which by the very nature will mean things won’t always work, but that’s okay as long as you’re using it to move forward.
What are your two favourite digital innovations at Channel 4?
1. Interactive - One of our favourite All 4 Ad units has been the interactive innovation. As a brand that offers made-to-measure blinds, curtains, shutters and awnings trying to showcase all those products in one unit has been difficult in the past but we’ve found this to be extremely versatile in being able to convey different messages throughout our Homes on 4 sponsorship. We’ve used it for our George Clarke content campaigns, our new Pleated blinds collection with House Beautiful and our influencer campaigns. The unit allowed us to provide the user with more information, without disrupting their viewing journey completely, which was an important consideration for us.
2. Amplify* - As a national brand that provides an in-home service, customers rightfully wanted reassurance that it was safe to have us back in their home when the rules of the lockdown were easing. During this period, we had a very specific message but limited amount of creative so the team at 4Sales suggested a brand new ad unit called Amplify that allowed us to give a clear message to our customers that we were taking all the precautions necessary to keep them and our colleagues safe during their appointment. Being the first brand to run this across All4.com, was really exciting and I think we would have struggled to get across quite a complicated comms if it wasn’t for that format.
What campaign are you most proud of working on?
Over the years there have been lots of campaigns that stick out but most recently it has to be the Homes on 4 Sponsorship for Hillarys. This was an amazing team effort that saw us work with George Clarke, create relevant content, think holistically about our activation plan and devise an effective form of measurement to prove the value of sponsorship. It was such an achievement and I was really proud when we picked up ‘Best use of Sponsorship’ at this year’s Thinkbox Awards for it, was a testament to all the hard work that went into it.
What’s something you don’t want the industry to be doing in 10 years?
Having ‘go viral’ as a campaign objective. I could go on for hours as to why this shouldn’t be a KPI from the outset, but I would like this to stop now please.
What is the best/most important industry initiative we've seen?
It’s something that’s still being worked on, but I think reliability and trust is one of the most important things to get right. It’s a huge task and not an easy one but with social media continuing to become an ever-increasing part of our lives and the pressure of ‘convenience’ when it comes to consumer behaviour, as an industry I think it’s important we don’t compromise on credibility in the pursuit of speed.