What Makes British Drama Characters Compelling? In These Ads, They Tell You Themselves

ITV gets wonderfully meta in work from Uncommon

Roger Allam, who plays Detective Inspector Fred Thursday from police series Endeavor, helms one of the two spots.
ITV

Hard-bitten detective Vera Stanhope doesn’t give a damn if people like her. She’s a crusty crime fighter who outsmarts bad guys and suffers no fools. Disheveled and dowdy, she will not be wearing lipstick or stilettos to solve her latest case.

How do we know all this? She tells us in a magically meta commercial for ITV to launch the British channel’s new campaign, “More than TV.” In its first work from Uncommon Creative Studio, the network is trying to lure “light” or lapsed viewers back to the telly (or any other device) to get invested in its dramas.

To do so, ITV debuts two new fourth-wall-breaking spots that star Brenda Blethyn (playing the title character from Vera) and Roger Allam (as Detective Inspector Fred Thursday from cop series, Endeavor). In each irresistibly engaging ad, the characters point out their trademark behaviors and traits, speaking directly to the camera.

Their faults and foibles are, of course, their greatest strengths. They talk about how they work, what fuels them, why we are moved by them and why we seek them out.

For instance, Allam’s Detective Thursday acknowledges the fact that he’s well loved but imperiled (hence, compulsively watchable). “Although you know that the good guys and the innocent often perish in great drama,” he says in the spot, “you won’t be able to help yourself.”

And though they’re archetypes—the wise yet vulnerable father figure, the fempowered gal with no filter—they “remind us of the people we love, the people we hate and sometimes even ourselves,” says Nils Leonard, Uncommon’s co-founder. “These characters live beyond the screen, emphasizing the power great TV can have.”

With the tagline, “Great characters make great drama,” the commercials come from decorated filmmaker James Marsh (The Night Of, Man on Wire, The Theory of Everything) and include a host of memorable touches, like a young flatfoot puking at a murder scene (Vera doesn’t flinch, naturally) and a haunting Max Richter score as the backdrop for Thursday’s suspenseful shootout in the woods.

ITV, trying to cement loyalty from its existing fans and recruit occasional viewers, wanted “to make sure our marketing and branding reflects the creativity and energy at the heart of our business and demonstrates the emotional power of our content,” says Rufus Radcliffe, the channel’s CMO.

The spots launch this week on TV, digital and in theater, and “Great characters” will continue with more drama stars and other genres through the year.

CREDITS:

Client: ITV
Chief Marketing Officer: Rufus Radcliffe
Director of Viewer Marketing: Paul Ridsdale
Head of Marketing – Brand Project: Sian Jones
Director of Social Purpose: Clare Phillips
Creative Agency: Uncommon Creative Studio
Media Agency: Goodstuff
Production Company: Pulse Films
Director: James Marsh
Executive Producer: Lucy Kelly
Producer: George Saunders
DOP: Benoit Delhomme
Editor: Sam Sneade @ Speade
Postproduction: The Mill
Colourist: Dave Ludlam
Music Supervision : Jay James & Lius Almau @ Soundtree
Sound design : Henning Knoepfel @ Soundtree
Music for ‘The Patriarch’: Max Richter’s ‘On the Nature of Daylight’ – Universal
Music for ‘The Guvnor’: Abel Korzeniowski’s ‘Sunset’ – Chester Music Ltd

Recommended videos