Inside Sky Creative Agency, the UK’s largest in-house creative advertising team
Having grown out of Sky’s broadcast services team, Sky Creative Agency (SCA) works on campaigns across Sky’s channels to deliver innovative promotional content. Also responsible for Sky’s overall branding strategy and identity, SCA is made up of seven departments and employs over 200 full-time staff; so it comes as no surprise that it currently stands as the UK’s largest in-house creative and advertising agency. We hear from managing director Simon Buglione about their work and team, as he reflects on some key campaigns from the past year, and gives us insight into the working environment and culture at Sky’s prodigious campus.
As Sky’s internal advertising agency, and the largest of its kind in the UK, we believe in-house is the future. It’s our job to look after Sky’s content advertising, brand design and promotions, and for the first time ever, Sky Creative Agency is responsible for all of Sky’s content brands as well as the overall master-brand strategy and design. We also look after Now TV as well as all Sky Sports’ and Sky News’ on-air graphic content.
“We have a much broader skill set than you would ordinarily find in a traditional external agency.”
SCA started life as the broadcast services team for Sky’s channels, and has since evolved into a full-service creative agency. What makes us unique is that we’ve retained all the broadcast services functions, and overlaid that with the functions you would expect to see in a traditional advertising agency: a campaigns team, account management, experiential. This means we have a much broader skill set than you would ordinarily find in a traditional external agency.
We’ve delivered some fantastic campaigns over the past six to nine months. It’s the first time SCA has been responsible for delivering every major content campaign across the Sky business. As an example, we delivered a hugely successful Christmas campaign for Sky Cinema at the end of 2018, featuring a voiceover by Sir Patrick Stewart.
The Sky Sports campaign, Festive Football, saw the SCA team traverse the length and breadth of the country shooting fan’s-eye-view content for Sky Sports. And then last month we created the brand new broadcast home for Formula 1, as well as the critically-acclaimed TV ad, which saw us recreate pivotal moments throughout F1’s history. It was a huge shoot with a lot of expensive F1 cars!
In terms of the way we collaborate across the company, we work with lots of different parts of the Sky business and the process can often be different depending on the objective. Internally, our account management team are responsible for most of the day-to-day liaison with our clients. Then, depending on what the brief is asking for, we will draft in support from our campaigns team to deliver 360º campaign development. The promotions team to get a variety of promo reels and the design team oversee any design-strategy requirements. This is something we do a lot of, particularly with some of the channel rebrands we’ve delivered, such as Sky Witness and Sky One – and the production team when it comes to physical shoots.
Our Sky News and Sky Sports News teams, which are part of the wider design department, work exclusively on their respective channels and are responsible for delivering live, on-screen graphics around the clock.
“We have to ensure we’re striking the right balance between pushing the boundaries of creativity and driving business objectives.”
Most of our work is seen extensively by our customers, and some by prospective customers. As well as being creatively innovative, our output often also needs to serve a very functional business purpose. As a customer-first, subscription-based business we have to ensure we’re striking the right balance between pushing the boundaries of creativity and driving business objectives. We publicise the biggest (for example, F1 and Sky Cinema) but we also do a lot of internal work, such as reels for MIPCOM (a content marketing trade event) and internal brand work, which is super-important but not necessarily publicised.
SCA is a bit of a beast! We have seven core departments within the agency: Campaigns, account management, design, promotions, production, resource management and operations. The two biggest teams are design and promotions – they each have up to 30 or 40 members of staff, plus freelancers. There are somewhere in the region of 150 different job roles at SCA alone.
We can have anything up to 200 freelancers on roster at any given moment. It depends on what briefs we’ve had come in from across the business. When recruiting, we look for raw talent, craft skills and a fresh perspective; we believe that different is good. The main question we ask when we’re seeking out new talent is whether they will bring a point-of-view to the agency that we don’t currently have.
“We look for raw talent, craft skills and a fresh perspective.”
We have a comprehensive, paid internship programme within SCA that we’re currently in the process of expanding. On top of this, we work very closely with the broader Early Careers team here at Sky to ensure we’re providing as many opportunities for young people as possible. We’re also currently developing an innovative new diversity and inclusivity programme that we’ll be announcing soon.
Environment and Culture
Sky has been based in Osterley, London, since its inception 30 years ago. As time has gone by, Sky has expanded to create what is now the Sky Campus. With the best part of 10,000 people working at the Osterley Campus, Sky has really worked hard to create an environment that provides everything its staff might need. It’s a very modern, very welcoming campus.
It may be slightly further out of London than some might like, but to offset that, Sky runs free shuttle buses from Ealing Broadway, Osterley and Gunnersbury tube stations. There are two multi-storey car parks, loads of cycle bays, plus electric car charging bays. Despite being a little bit outside of London, it’s an amazing place to work and most people are blown away when they experience the campus for the first time.
“Most people are blown away when they experience the campus for the first time.”
There are absolutely loads of employee benefits! An excellent pension scheme, free private medical insurance, subsidised food across the campus, a fully flexible working policy, masses of training and development opportunities and Europe’s largest corporate gym – also subsidised.
We have a continuous conveyor belt of special guests, product launches, restaurant takeovers, pop-ups and much more. At Christmas we had a free ice rink for all of the staff and their families, and in the summer we have everything from deck chairs out on the grass to mini golf. We also have a fully functioning cinema showing films and box sets, for free, throughout the week.
Meet some of the Sky Creative Agency team
Below, we get to know just a few of the creatives that make up Sky Creative Agency’s full team.
Lucy Hewetson-Smith, assistant producer since 2018
Previous employment: A+E Networks, BBC Worldwide
Graduated with a BA in Illustration from Edinburgh University in 2018
“My job is very collaborative because I constantly follow my producers around, and serve as a conduit of knowledge. Since Sky deals with multiple television shows, I get to work on projects with varied genres, which allows me to observe different advertising styles.”
Stay tuned to read our full interview with Lucy in the coming weeks.
Nathan Griffiths, graphic designer since 2015
Previous employment: Freelance graphic designer
Graduated with a BA in Graphic Design from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in 2015
“I’m a graphic designer within the Sky News design team. At its core, it consists of information design and visual journalism. I work with the news production teams on any events, shows or stories that they are covering. What’s great about my role is that it isn’t limited to just one thing, and I have the opportunity to work across many platforms and mediums. One day I could be working on a title sequence, the next day I could be working on a set design. Every project can be different, so you really need to be adaptable.”
Stay tuned to read our full interview with Nathan in the coming weeks.
Iman Kassar, production coordinator since 2017
Previous Employment: Sky PLC
Graduated with a BA in Television Production from Skillset Media Academy, Middlesex University, in 2010
“My role at Sky is to oversee the production aspects of Sky Cinema Original film promos that are due to be delivered for each title, but when I joined, Sky Cinema Original was a new venture – there was no process or workflow put in place. I worked closely with the Sky Creative Agency and other internal and external teams to create a more streamlined work process. The best thing about working here right now is being at the forefront of something so exciting with such great creative output.”
Stay tuned to read our full interview with Iman in the coming weeks.
William Phillpotts, creative technologist since 2015
Previous employment: Sky Technology, GPSS
“I am Sky Creative Agency’s sole creative technologist. In a nutshell, I’m responsible for the creation and execution of automated graphics systems – I write code to create automated workflows and systems that will take an idea from a producer or data source like AP and turn it into a visual product. My work is usually visible on big data days like election nights, counters like the Brexit countdown clock. I take physical designs from Sky’s designers and make their visions a reality.”
Stay tuned to read our full interview with William in the coming weeks.
Leah Chander, junior creative since 2014
Previous employment: Intern at Sky Creative Agency
“I was offered a job after my internship with Sky Creative Agency, and I now work across Sky’s entertainment channels, editing and producing on-air promotions. This involves pitching, idea generation, editing on Premier Pro, communicating ideas with sound design and GFX, script writing and brainstorming – the list goes on! The best thing about working here is the campus: it has everything to make your work-life balance easier.”
Stay tuned to read our full interview with Leah in the coming weeks.
Sky Creative Agency is a Lecture in Progress brand partner. Every year, Lecture in Progress partners with like-minded brands and agencies to support our initiative and keep Lecture in Progress a free resource for students. To find out more about how you can work with us, email [email protected]
Mention Simon Buglione
Photography by Eric Aydin-Barberini
Mention Sky Creative Agency
Written by Rebecca Irvin
Interview by Indi Davies