ITV knits the ad break for Text Santa

ITV teamed up with six major brands to ‘knit the ad break’ during ITV’s annual charity fundraiser, Text Santa. Neuroscience showed the power of context and content, with these entertaining spots enjoying a ten per cent jump in long-term ad recall.

BT, British Gas, Nationwide, DFS, Amazon Prime and Dreams each had their ads recreated in glorious knits, which played out in a single 190” ad break during the broadcaster’s annual charity appeal. This unique, themed commercial break was framed and punctuated by knitted ITV branded promo spots.

To celebrate and raise the profile of the Christmas jumper theme of this year’s Text Santa, ITV Creative, their in-house agency, created knitted versions of the brands’ current advertising which ran during the charity appeal show on 18th December.  

The idea takes its inspiration from The Lego Movie ad break, which saw advertisers’ ads recreated in Lego.  PHD’s multi-award winning campaign aired on ITV last year. 

The knitted ad break was conceived and created by ITV Creative and used stop-motion animation, model making and the skills of expert textile artists to bring the knitted ads to life.  The Director wad Tobias Fouracre, the Producer was Janet Smith and model makers Mackinnon and Saunders.


The last Friday before Christmas is an incredibly important time for brands to cut through and get their messages out to consumers. The knitted ad break, within Text Santa, represents a phenomenal opportunity for brands to do something different, get noticed and stand out in a very crowded marketplace.

Kim Gilroy Account Sales Manager, ITV

ITV worked with brands whose ads already had a certain reach and frequency, so that they were easily recognisable in knitted form and selected those that could be created in wool (avoiding water, fireworks, explosions and multiple scene changes).

Brands were charged the normal rate to appear in the break, and paid an additional fixed cost to pay for the creative and the knitted characters. The media space cost was donated to the Text Santa fund by the ITV Commercial Team.

The on-air campaign was amplified in social media using the hashtag #knittedadbreak and further augmented on ITV and Text Santa’s social channels. 

ITV’s annual Text Santa fundraising appeal supports families in times of difficulty and has raised more than £21 million since its launch in 2011. This year’s fundraiser was held in support of Macmillan Cancer Support, Make-a-Wish and Save the Children, with the theme "do your bit in a Christmas knit", and ran from December the 1st until December the 18th. The Text Santa appeal helps families who’ve been affected by crisis, grants wishes to children facing life-threatening injuries and funds nurses so that they can provide those with cancer with the care that they require.


The effects of context and creative

The promoted ad break evidently captured viewers’ attention, with BARB data showing they stayed with it throughout.

To find out more about how the break resonated with the audience, ITV used neuroscience-based market research agency, Neuro-Insight, to study viewers’ brain response to the knitted ad break and compared the results to a break containing the original versions of the TV spots. While the original (non-wool based) ads scored highly, long-term memory encoding for the knitted versions of the advertisements was ten per cent higher, clearly showing the benefits to brands of both advertising context and creative execution.

Memory encoding is an important measure because of a correlation between memory and subsequent brand decision-making and purchase behaviour.

Text Santa was also the most tweeted about show of that day, according to Kantar Media Instar Social, with social conversations spiking the moment the knitted ad break was broadcast and people still talking about it for several days after the break was aired.

And most importantly, this ITV Text Santa campaign was its most successful ever, raising £8,383,361 for charity. Excellent work all round.


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