Case Study

Sky Originals – Chernobyl


Sky has a long history of bringing first-rate television to the UK (including The Sopranos and The Wire). But their position as the premier broadcaster of quality drama has been threatened by the rise of deep-pocketed tech rivals. Streaming broadcasters including Netflix and Amazon Prime have changed the television landscape, upending expectations around both customer experience and production quality. In this new world, original productions are king.


Sky approached us to promote their new drama mini-series Chernobyl (an HBO co-production). Strategically, our goal was to use the show to boost the overall perception of Sky Originals productions as much as it was to drive viewership for the show itself. The challenge we faced was that in the minds of the British public Chernobyl was simply old news. There would be no need for ‘spoiler alerts’ on this one, as we all know how the story ends. The real question then, was did we know how it all began?


With access to The Times archives, we were uniquely placed to return to the origins of the story as it was told at the time. Across one targeted weekend we took over key Times and Sunday Times properties, using high-impact innovation formats.

• Launching on the Saturday, a translucent wrap of Times Review (the first ever) posed the provocative question; Chernobyl: Was The Truth Clouded?

•  A translucent centrespread that day opened to reveal a blocking effect, reminiscent of a redacted document, creating a powerful visual metaphor for the Soviet authorities’ cover-up which initially left the world in the dark.

• We ran a series of original Times front pages from 1986 reporting on the disaster, as well as features telling the real story of the disaster and interviewing the director of the TV series on how he brought it to life.

• We closed the promotional weekend with a Sunday Times Culture cover illustration that cleverly played on one of the most famous and haunting images of the disaster – an abandoned Ferris wheel in the nearby evacuated town of Pripyat.


•  Short term results; the highest rated TV series of all time, according to IMDb users (9.7/10 average rating) and Sky Studios most successful original production to date

• Long term results; brand halo-effect, boosting quality perception of Sky, with initial results showing a 2% uplift in proportion of positive brand conversations YoY
(Source: Engagement Labs TalkTrack brand survey)

• A testament to the importance of collaboration and creativity, and the unique way that ‘old media’ can work together to deliver truly disruptive high impact creative, which is more than a match for the digital-disruptors