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Sky TV's ad blitz staggers industry

IT IS the UK's biggest advertising campaign - and few will be able to escape it. Sky Digital is already dominating television screens, magazines and the Internet with a three-month promotion valued at a whopping pounds 60m.

Nobody has ever before spent so much money on advertising in such a concentrated way, a Sky spokesperson said yesterday. The campaign, which began in earnest on 1 October, will gather pace as Christmas approaches.

"Sixty million pounds goes an awful long way, even if you don't own half the media you are advertising in," said one advertising industry insider.

"The fact is that incredible cut-price deals are being made for Sky by Murdoch-owned outlets, and elsewhere."

Other big spenders such as Dixons and Comet spend about pounds 36m a year, and supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury about pounds 30m each - but the Sky launch dwarfs such campaigns.

At the moment the company is concentrating on generic messages implying that your television is frustrated and wants to do a whole deal more than deliver old-fashioned analogue TV. "Set me free" and "I can do more" are key messages.

On 15 October, though, the next phase will begin, detailing the "features and benefits" of the Sky packages on offer.

The amount of money that Sky is spending has amazed some advertising executives, who point out that worries about the economy and a lower spending budget from the large clients, such as Ford, are this week causing redundancies elsewhere, including 30 job losses at the advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather.

It is also one of the most integrated campaigns ever known. Apart from the television advertisements, the company took over advertising on Virgin Radio for four consecutive days, and has extensive promotions on the Internet.

Anyone logging in to find out about Sky's rival ONdigital, for instance, will find themselves confronted by a Sky advertisement which, if approached, will lead them directly to Sky's new updated website.

Newspapers and magazines are also being used. Supplements with 32 pages have appeared in The Times, The Sunday Times and Daily Mail, with 10 pages in The Mail on Sunday.

Elsewhere double-page spreads worth about pounds 50,000 have been taken out. Promotions have already appeared in glossy mags, such as FHM and GQ, and can be expected shortly in Vogue, Elle and Marie Claire.

"The only campaigns which match this one for the amounts spent are those connected to privatisations like British Gas and British Airways, but we haven't seen those for a long time," said Mark Robinson, of the advertising agency JWalter Thompson.

Others are sceptical - saying that Sky needs to spend its money quickly before competitors such as ONdigital weigh into the market.

ONdigital alone is expected to spend about pounds 90m on advertising in the coming year. It seems that the onslaught in our living rooms has only just begun.