This Compelling British Ad Makes a Case for TV as a Force for Good

Uncommon sings the praises of ITV

Even as television has been enjoying a so-called "golden age," the medium still seems to feel a bit guilty—to want to justify itself. This is because, let's face it, most of what's on television remains utter garbage.

Thus, it's been a consistent strategy for some networks to suggest they're better than the medium they inhabit.

HBO has long, and rather absurdly, insisted it isn't TV at all—with "It's not TV. It's HBO" implying simply that it isn't just mindless rot. U.K. broadcaster ITV has been doing a similar thing lately with its "More than TV" campaign, with the message being essentially the same—and revealing an ongoing embarrassment about the medium's worst impulses.

It's interesting, then, that ITV just released an anthemic "More than TV" film that is very pro-television indeed—and not just pro-ITV, though clearly that's the focus. "This is television," Sir Trevor McDonald, the ITV newsman, intones at the outset, in footage from 1971. "But look closer. Past the pixels."

The piece goes on to show Brits watching ITV through the decades, going back to the '60s—and seeing compelling, culture-shifting content in both its entertainment shows and its news and documentaries. And then the piece goes further and suggests television generally is a force for social good—that a commitment to diversity and inclusion on the screen helps foster those same values off the screen, too.

Check out the film, created by Uncommon, here:

A lot of the spot relies on ITV's news and documentary broadcasts, and in this the piece feels a bit Guardian-esque—as though TV were competing with print journalism. But it's really about influencing culture more broadly, as we also get plenty of glimpses of ITV's entertainment properties, from the famous soap opera Coronation Street (which has aired since the '60s) to the reality competition Britain's Got Talent. 

A lot of the entertainment that's shown is expressly purposeful. Footage includes the actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, who played Hayley Cropper on Coronation Street from 1998 to 2014—the first transgender character in a British serial. ("Having somebody in your home three, four, five times a week, who you get to know, love, care about and root for, changes everything. That's how you get rid of prejudice," Hesmondhalgh told Uncommon in an interview during the spot's creation.) 

We also see Lost Voice Guy—a comedian who's been unable to speak since his early life and uses a communication aid in his standup routines—winning Britain's Got Talent in 2018. 

We get a few famous faces from pure entertainment shows, too, for nostalgia's sake, including Helen Mirren as Detective Inspector Jane Tennison from the third season of Prime Suspect in 1993. What we don't get is the Survivor-esque I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!, which has been ITV's top-rated show for several years. (This isn't the BBC, after all. But maybe it's good to know there are still shows to be mortified by?) 

On the whole, the piece looks great—Billy Boyd Cape, maker of last year's impressive "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" film for London Pride, directs ably through Academy Films. And it has a real sense of gravitas, largely thanks to McDonald, the ITV newsreader and journalist who bookends—and narrates—the piece. 

"Because in the end, we are changed by what we see. Just as we are changed when we are seen," McDonald says at the end. That's a nice line, and a fair commentary on TV at its best. And if the full-throated defense of television clashes a bit with the "More than TV" line at the end, perhaps that's just the halting nature of progress. 

The film ran on Saturday night before Britain's Got Talent on ITV, and will run on TV, digital and cinema. 

CREDITS

Project name: 'More Than TV'
Agency: Uncommon Creative Studio
Client: ITV 
Chief Marketing Officer: Rufus Radcliffe
Director of Viewer Marketing: Paul Ridsdale
Head of Marketing - Brand Project: Sian Jones
Footage Researcher: Tom Harris
Media agency: Goodstuff Communications
Production company: Academy Films
Director: Billy Boyd Cape
Production Company Producers: Juliette Harris and Simon Cooper @ Academy
Editor: Ed Cooper @ The Assembly Rooms  
DOP: Molly Manning Walker
Post-production: The Mill
VFX Supervisor: James Mac
Post production producer: Ange Toner
Grade: Cheat
Colourist: Toby Tomkins
Soundtrack composer: Luis Almau
Audio post-production: Soundtree 
Sound design: Henning Knoepfel
Music Supervisor: Jay James

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards and the founding editor of Muse by Clio.