Mid January is a special time of year.

    Yes, there’s Blue Monday but this month is all about high expectations and new starts. And importantly, it’s a time when plans, ambitions and aspirations dreamed up in the days before Christmas are turned into realities.


    Like this, our second Gluesletter.


    Our long read, this time by founder Simon Orpin, takes a look at the festive TV schedules and asks what they tell us about the aspirations of broadcasters for the year ahead. Does event TV, beloved of audiences and advertisers, have a future? Do we need to find another Simon Cowell?


    And if that doesn’t entice you to read on, maybe Simon’s ability to curiously link his subject matter with the fate of the church during the Black Death will. At Electric Glue, we always like to take a long term view of things.


    2020 was particularly challenging for us all. 2021 was better. We have an inkling that 2022 will be something special.


    We hope you agree.


    It's probably TV's most challenging "balancing act" – making the most of an unscripted future


    Each Christmas, TV’s ability to weave itself into the cultural life of the nation comes under intense scrutiny. So what lessons can we learn from this year’s efforts? Or indeed the signals emerging from commercial broadcasters in recent months? One way or another, says Electric Glue founder Simon Orpin, they shouldn’t lose sight of what keeps their customers – viewers and advertisers alike – satisfied




    HOW WAS YOUR TV Christmas? Was it haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past (aka Morecambe and Wise)? Did it revive your faith in the industry’s ability to rise to unprecedented challenges? Or did it arrive accompanied by a chilling spectre of Christmases-Yet-To-Come – a sobering vision of the future for all of our established broadcasters?

    Seems a long time ago now (and may be best forgotten). Well, perhaps you’re right. But the fascinating thing about 2021’s festive programming performance is that it could (and arguably should) have a disproportionate influence on shaping the programming strategy of broadcasters as we enter an unpredictable new normal.

    The Christmas schedules, last year as never before, were seen by many as a proving ground for the notion that our mainstream broadcasters – the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and, to a certain extent, Channel 5 – are continuing to lose their ability, culturally, emotionally, to provide a focus for the collective life of the nation.

    Are they becoming increasingly irrelevant? And if so, might it be possible for Netflix (other streaming brands are available), maybe not this year, but soon, to “steal” Christmas?

    When the festive schedules were unveiled in November, the critics pronounced this the most uninspired festive line-up since… well, since 2020. But then 2020 didn’t really count. Everyone was handed a free pass thanks to Covid.

    The Covid excuse was still in play this time around (though it already looks shop-worn and by next Christmas it will be well past its sell-by). As December rolled on it was interesting to see the critics, infused perhaps with generous quantities of Christmas spirit, begin to cut the broadcasters some slack.

    Maybe, they seemed to be saying, things weren’t quite so shoddy after all. This despite the fact that BBC 2 had decided to show two Morecambe and Wise shows from the 1970s on Christmas Evening. There’s a catchphrase that might be appropriate here. I wish I could remember it.


    THERE WERE, after all, lots of other reasons to be cheerful. TV ad revenues, for instance, were looking good. The commercial broadcast establishment seemed supremely assured as it stepped up to swat away awkward questions.

    Take Lindsey Clay, chief executive of Thinkbox, who was on hand to remind readers of the Telegraph’s business section that Event TV remains the most important game in town – especially at Yuletide. The festive schedule is still “stitched into the cultural fabric of the nation,” she stated.

    And she added: “Part of the joy of watching things live is the knowledge that you’re watching it at the same time as everybody else. It’s the knowledge that you are participating in a national moment – a cultural moment.”


    IT’S A BIT OF A STRETCH, but I think of this inecclesiastical terms. Don’t worry. I’m not about to suggest that senior figuresat ITV or Channel 4 have roles in any way analogous to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Or that their organisations exist to channel higher truths. Or that they will be remembered in times to come for their good works. 

    Merely to note that, in an earlier stage of the evolution of human society, the Church helped meet a basic human need. It was where (among other things) people got together to share news and experiences – and, when no-one in authority was watching, share a joke or two. 

    Linear broadcasters have also won a cherished place in the hearts of the nation, by congregating an audience. Streamers, in contrast, enshrine our isolation as viewers.


    LIVE TV, EVENT TV, CALL IT WHAT YOU WILL, comes in many shapes and sizes. There are once-in-a-blue moon epic sporting showdowns, for instance. And drama can be event TV too, obviously; but nation-gripping hits like Broadchurch come along rarely and they’re almost impossible to plan for.

    The most common manifestation of must-watch (and chat about afterwards) broadcasting comes under the heading (at ITV at least) of “unscripted” TV. There’s a spectrum of formats in play here, from the panel or sofa shows that are the mainstay of the daytime schedule, through to the reality and talent franchises with big audiences and an unerring capacity for generating headlines.

    These are the shows that, to borrow Lindsey Clay’s memorable phrase, have become woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. Shows like Britain’s Got Talent, I’m A Celebrity, Love Island.

    In the UK, we’re very good at must-watch TV. For over 30 years Sky Sports has brought viewers together around football, cricket, boxing and more. And ITV doesn’t always get the credit it deserves for emerging over the last decade as a world leader in developing unscripted formats. ITV America is a major player in the US market. Not a lot of people know that.

    THIS IS A SUBJECT close to our hearts at Electric Glue. One of our areas of expertise is in helping clients derive value from unscripted commercial TV formats.

    We launched the agency following the huge success of its prototype campaign, Yeo Valley’s landmark takeover of the X Factor. It’s a thread that runs through our history. One of our most recent initiatives saw us secure a multi-faceted partnership deal for New England Seafood International and its Fish Said Fred brand with Steph’s Packed Lunch on Channel 4. On air sponsorship, licensing, product placement and content generation brought consumers closer to the brand.

    We’re not talking pollocks here – we know the value of a highly engaged audience.

    WHICH PUTS US IN MIND, once more, of churches. Churches, congregations, and… er… Covid. Ever been on a country walk and come across a church in the middle of nowhere, half a mile from the nearest settlement? This spookiness came about thanks to an early version of the pandemic called, with a hardly a hint of hyperbole, The Black Death. The SAGE committee of its day developed a radical approach where the worst of the country’s plague-ridden villages were concerned. They’d raze them to the ground, leaving the parish church in isolation while they built a new village a little way off.

    And you thought Hands Face Space was tiresome. They didn’t mess about in the 14th Century.

    Is there an analogy here about the perils of distancing yourself from your audience? I warned you that these church metaphors might be a stretch.

    BUT THE FACT REMAINS that the strategic vision of our mainstream ad-supported broadcasters is important to agencies, advertisers and ultimately the economic well-being of all.

    ITV will publish the latest iteration of its programme planning philosophy in early Spring. It will make for fascinating reading, especially where ITV’s new “balancing act” is concerned.

    Will it be sure-footed? Let’s hope, for all our sakes, it bears no resemblance to Bez’s Bambi-like pre-show rehearsals for Dancing On Ice.

    One way or another, it’s going to be a compelling spectacle. Stay tuned.




    Our latest news



    We're delighted to be working with one of the fastest-growing (and tastiest) businesses 

    in the fmcg category, Charlie Bigham's.


    Read more >>>



    Views worth gluing into





    “Embracing the slow build of real brand power against the crack cocaine of performance marketing…”


    Who doesn’t love an article on “horse poop and data poo”? 

    (© Nick Kendall, 2022)


    Are “people too stupefied by consumerism, short-termism and social media, too hypnotised by the interests of big tech corporations, to worry about the future of humankind”?

    Thank you for your support and we hope that Gluesletter 02 was worthy of your time. Do please let us know your feedback here.


    Gluesletter 03 will be out this Spring.