Ad Break or Musical Interlude?

Special Ad Breaks

This evening during Alan Carr’s Chatty Man, Sam Smith will be performing his #1 single “Stay With Me” live in its entirety in a partnership with Google Play. The song itself will be broadcast directly from his sold-out show at London’s Roundhouse. It’s a “world first” and an interesting partnership that will generate a lot of online buzz and column inches for both the artist and the brand before, during and after it airs.

These one-off ad breaks are a great but expensive way of making a big statement to a large audience, creating a unique shared viewing experience. It raises the question of whether conventional ad breaks are still the best way for advertisers to get their messages across to their audiences. In this case, turning an ad break into a musical interlude is a huge statement by Google Play – one which I don’t think it could have achieved through a campaign of 30″ spots alone.

To commemorate this, here are 3 more “special” ad breaks from the last few years that have caught the attention of the Great British public:


French Language Ad Break (Channel 4, The Returned)

French Ad Break

What: Channel 4 aired a full ad break featuring French voiceovers and English subtitles, featuring advertisers such as L’Oreal and Emirates Airlines.

Why: Channel 4 wanted to create buzz around the new series of French drama The Returned. It sold the ad break to media agencies as a “premium” break that would include premium brands. All the creatives used were the same as their original incarnations, but the French voiceovers gave each spot a new burst of life and a mysterious allure that they all previously lacked.


 Lego Ad Break (ITV, Dancing on Ice)

Lego Ad Break

What: ITV aired a full ad break during Dancing On Ice that featured well-known adverts transformed into Lego versions. They matched the original creatives frame-by-frame.

Why: The ad break was produced in partnership with Warner Bros. that was trying to find a new and innovative way to promote The Lego Movie that was being released at the same time. Advertisers included in the break included British Heart Foundation, Premier Inn and BT – each of which had fun creatives that were taken to the next level by the Lego-ification. The Lego brand itself is one that is loved universally by young and old, so being associated with this brand embodied the advertisers with similar sentiments. Since the broadcast, the full spot has amassed over 1,000,000 views online.


The Lego ad break in full, as it originally aired in early 2014 on ITV.


Comedy Gala Ad Breaks (Channel 4, Comedy Gala)

Comedy Gala Ad Break

What: Channel 4 airs a yearly Comedy Gala, and during each broadcast it runs an ad break featuring comedians appearing in each well-known creative.

Why: The ad break feeds from the programme that bookends it. When viewed live it seems as if the ad break itself is simply an extension of the Comedy Gala, and it creates a much heightened level of engagement with the creatives. The big names in comedy, such as Alan Carr and Jimmy Carr, obviously help in making the adverts memorable. The most successful adverts, however, are the ones that appear to be the most mundane yet get an injection of humour. These brands turn from mundane to being in on the joke.

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