Many believed the merger of Carlton and Granada would act as a catalyst for radical change in the TV market in terms of the dealings between advertisers, agencies and media owners.
ITV's green light for merger was granted on the condition that advertisers would be protected against anti-competitive behaviour via the creation of the Contract Rights Renewal mechanism.
At the same time, the noble high Office of the Adjudicator was created with the appointment of David Connolly to oversee and ensure fair play.
Quite appropriate, considering that, in a previous life as a tenacious TV buyer, he was affectionately known as the Scotweiler.
Two diametric views were abroad at the time. Some thought the ITV merger was the thin end of the wedge and further consolidation and upheaval was inevitable. Others saw it as a chance to allow agencies and advertisers finally to be allowed to invest behind audience delivery.
So what was the outcome? Did the trading infrastructure and environment change dramatically and did the dealing season leave blood on the walls?
Not really. Yes, negotiations were delayed and there were some inevitable skirmishes, but most disputes would have been settled outside the court of King Connolly.
Neither did we see the knee-jerk consolidation of other sales points.
There was plenty of posturing, chest-beating and cries of anguish and indignation, but a combination of disparate commercial imperatives, politics and primary legislation has thus far prevented further consolidation.
The market has shown an uplift in 2004, with advertising revenues increasing by 5 per cent (of which ITV showed a slight overall share decline to 50 per cent). Channel 4 did well to hold share in 2004, despite a relatively poor audience performance in 2003.
Other channels benefited from ITV's marginal decline - notably five and multichannel - but, overall, it was a fairly becalmed dealing season.
What has been more significant given a CRR-dominated trading future is the respective audience performances. ITV has not performed as it would have liked. ITV1 suffered both across the European Championships (with the exception of coverage of the England versus France game) where the BBC traditionally takes the lion's share of audiences, and in September, when the BBC's slick coverage of the Olympic Games in Athens was aided by the mini-soap operas that were the coxless fours, the golden double of Kelly Holmes and the fall from grace of Paula Radcliffe.
The durability of Channel 4's Big Brother, along with a staple diet of other reality shows, not only helped the channel maintain a strong position but also serves to show how voyeurism remains a basic tenet of UK viewing behaviour. This helped ITV in the autumn, when the return of I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! fed the UK viewing public's voyeuristic tendencies in an important period.
Within the industry, key appointments and defections have been a feature of this year, creating a bit of a managerial merry-go-round. ITV's inevitable staff shake-up had the appearance of being handled with efficiency and Graham Duff moved quickly to put his management team in place. A key appointment was that of Justin Sampson, who moved over from the Radio Advertising Bureau to take the position of head of client relationships.
Nick Milligan's long-vaunted defection to Sky to join up with his old sparring partner Dawn Airey finally happened when he was appointed as the managing director of Sky Sales. Milligan's arrival coincides with Sky's recognition that it must reassess its offering. Sky One's performance, in particular, has continued to be of concern and reinforces the arguments of those who claim the channel is not a priority for Sky as it does little to drive subscriptions. The return of Viacom's Paul Curtis as Milligan's number two brings together a tried, tested and experienced double act.
Jim Hytner's defection from the position of ITV marketing director will be a blow for the channel. He has done a very effective job for ITV, but at least he leaves behind him the legacy of an effective marketing programme.
Similarly, David Pullen at five departed from a similar position after effectively overseeing five's positioning.
Final agreement on a combined TV marketing body, after years of talk, certainly suggests that the commercial companies have finally woken up to the fact that in an increasingly competitive environment, it is vital to promote TV as a medium instead of scrapping among themselves for an ever-decreasing slice of the pie. Time will tell if the key protagonists can emulate the success of other media's marketing programmes.
2004 also saw the continued rise of the interactive platform, with more than 600 interactive campaigns initiated by more than 200 clients. While the demand is still primarily driven by response, the future will herald increasing branding elements over response and an erosion of the dominance of the 30-second spot.
The high importance Sky is putting on promoting its Sky+ personal video recorder should deliver a salutary lesson to the industry that we cannot rest on our collective laurels. Viewing patterns, consumption and behaviour are changing and more innovative and lateral solutions beyond spots and space are becoming essential.
So, as we sit in the middle of the trading season, what will happen in 2005? CRR will give media buyers the flexibility to move share out of ITV, but its sales director, Gary Digby, and the London sales leader, Simon Lent, will undoubtedly put up a ferocious case for the defence.
Channel 4, buoyed by a great year in audience terms, will be demanding growth, and five and the multichannel boys will be standing in the slips awaiting and demanding a share of the spoils from the effect of the CRR mechanism.
So this promises to be another tenacious negotiation season - sound familiar?
- Chris Boothby is the operations director at Vizeum
THE 10 BEST TV ADS
1. Honda Diesel "grrr"
This spot kicks "cog" in its shiny metal arse. Rabbits, rainbows and flowers lead the revolution against dirty, noisy diesel engines in a cheery world of happy primary colours. Sheer animated bliss.
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Writers/art directors: Sean Thompson, Michael Russoff, Richard Russell
Directors: Smith& Foulkes
Production company: Nexus Productions
Media planning: Naked Communications
Media buying: Starcom Motive
2. Stella Artois "pilot"
Stella Artois pays homage to the flying aces of the First World War. The black-and-white film is packed with suspense and detail, and comes up with a cheeky bit of Frenchie-bashing at the end.
Writers: Vince Squibb, Jason Lawes, Sam Cartmell
Art directors: Vince Squibb, Jason Lawes, Sam Cartmell
Director: Ivan Zacharias
Production company: Stink
Media agency: Starcom Motive
3. Levi's "bike"
A sultry and intriguing portrayal of inner-city living: unbeatable dialogue and understated acting create an off-beat spot in a strong campaign. One of the flirtiest ads of all time.
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Writer: Toby Allen
Art director: Jim Hilson
Director: Nick Gordon
Production company: Academy
Media agency: Starcom Motive
4. Fcuk "denim range"
Trevor Beattie, TBWA's creative director, said it was the first time in the history of advertising that a company had "dared not speak its name". Denim-clad youths take a road trip across a desert but the ad doesn't name the company. Very fcuk.
Writer: Trevor Beattie
Art director: Bil Bungay
Director: Bil Bungay
Production company: RSA
Media agency: Manning Gottlieb OMD
5. HSBC "okey doke"
"The world's local bank" campaign has matured with age. A cool young hunk motors through South America to the soundtrack of Hendrix's Ezy Rider, while managing to offend the colourful, vest-clad locals with his ignorant attempts to communicate.
Agency: Lowe Worldwide
Writer: Vince Squibb
Art director: Vince Squibb
Director: Chris Palmer
Production company: Georgeous Enterprises
Media agencies: PHD in UK, ZenithOptimedia worldwide.
6. NSPCC "ventiloquist"
This chilling ad for the "someone to turn to" campaign drives its message home by the device of a ventriloquist's dummy. The little girl, we realise, is unable to speak for herself because she is under the control of her abuser.
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Writer: Leo Premutico
Art director: Ian Jacobs
Directors: Danny Kleinman, Mary Marsh
Production company: Large Corp
Media agency: ZenithOptimedia
7. Lynx "getting dressed"
A sexy young couple retrace their steps through city streets, picking up their clothes where they dropped them, in this Cannes gold-winning spot from Bartle Bogle Hegarty.
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Writer: Nick Gill
Art director: Nick Gill
Director: Ringan Ledwidge
Production company: Small Family Business, London
Media agency: Initiative Media
8. Department of Health "anti-smoking testimonial"
No matter how many times you see it, this ad always gets to you. Its powerful twist - that Mr Hicks died two weeks after filming and never saw his daughter again - gets right to the heart of the issue.
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Dianne Leaver
Art director: Simon Rice
Director: Dominic Savage
Production company: Large
Media planning: PHD
Media buying: COI Communications
9. Travelocity "hello Whicker" With his distinctive blazer, glasses and voice, the dry-witted Alan Whicker remains a likeable spokesman for Travelocity, with this endearing self-parody.
Agency: Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy
Writer: Ben Tollett
Art director: Emer Stamp
Director: Blue Source
Production company: Blink Productions
Media agency: Klondike
10. Smirnoff "diamond"
A man chokes to death on a cracker while watching TV and his friend has his corpse converted into a diamond, all accompanied by Beethoven's fifth symphony.
Agency: J. Walter Thompson
Writer: Jonathan Budds
Art director: Anita Davis
Production company: Partizan
Media agency: Carat
THE 10 TOP TV SPONSORSHIPS
1. Tio Pepe and Hell's Kitchen, ITV
As the sponsor of the London Restaurant Awards, the sherry brand Tio Pepe probably knows what it's like dealing with chefs. It still takes imagination and balls to turn what will almost certainly provide heated and intense debate in the kitchen hothouse into a positive and sensible sponsorship association.
Media: John Ayling & Associates
2. First Choice and I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here!, ITV
This was probably the most clear-cut sponsorship association of the year. The retail travel sector has been slow to embrace the potential benefits of broadcast sponsorship and here First Choice took on one of ITV's biggest properties and successfully developed it through the line.
Media: Walker Media, SPP
Creative: The Lab/Phoenix
3. Leerdammer and the ITV Mystery Dramas
Despite being condemned for committing every cardinal sin of broadcast sponsorship - odd product, no natural fit with the programme and naff credits - this has been a big success with product reputedly flying off the shelves. Leerdammer stuck with the association long enough for the audience to move from incomprehension through acceptance and eventually affection.
Media: OMD UK
Creative: 360 Media
4. Baileys and Sex & the City, Channel 4
When the show first came out there was concern among the sponsorship specialists about ever finding a sponsor for a show with the word "sex" in the title. Baileys was bold to rise to the challenge and, in doing so, transformed the image of the brand.
5. Talk Talk and Big Brother, Channel 4
Talk Talk got a bit of a steal with this one because, after last year's deadly dull Big Brother, there was talk of it not being commissioned at all, so interest was not at its highest. Talk Talk's gamble paid off as the programme returned to form.
Media: Matteo Media
6. KFC and Home & Away, five
Longevity is the key to success in the sponsorship of a soap, as Cadbury and Coronation Street and Heinz and Emmerdale have proven. KFC is a new relationship for Home & Away and the fit seems natural, while the quirky and interesting idents eclipse the efforts of the previous incumbent, Bodyform.
Media: Walker Media/SPP
Creative: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
7. Mini and Green Wing, Channel 4
Despite having the least-comprehensible and least-amusing sponsor credits of the year, full credit to Mini for seizing the initiative and sponsoring the most innovative drama comedy on TV this year on the back of just seeing the pilot. Despite the faults, this is a natural cultural fit between brand and programme.
8. Learn Direct and Risking it All, Channel 4
This was another sensible fit, although it was a shame the show's entrepreneurial subjects didn't demonstrate as much realism as they did optimism.
Media: Drum PHD
9. Rennies and the ITV Christmas Showcase An amusing take on the dangers of over-indulging during the festive season.
Creative: J. Walter Thompson
10. Anadin and Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Channel 4
Gordon Ramsay makes his second appearance in the list. A credible fit for an extremely watchable series as the volatile Ramsay lost his rag with incompetent chefs.
THE 10 TOP INTERACTIVE TV ADS
1. Honda Diesel
In the opinion of many observers, this interactive TV ad, for the first time, is the real deal. It helps that, in the animated "grrr" 90-second commercial, there's an awesome start point. And indeed, the interactive domain offers a sing-along version of the song and there's also a documentary about the making of the ad. And, of course, there's car action and mechanical stuff about how the technology is better. It's sumptuously rendered too, using up the whole screen rather than the quarter screen you get in most interactive domains. Last but not least, it invites viewers to phone in and talk about things they hate and things they'd change. These contributions are recorded and replayed later on the domain to pieces of animation. This is the Full Monty.
- Agency: Zip TV
The sports shoe makers have scores of world-class stars under contract, so arguably this is a no-brainer. You shoot a commercial featuring one of your stable of stars and then, in the microsite, you have extended footage involving the star.
- Agency: Weapon 7
3. Honda IMA
Yes, Honda again, this time for its hybrid engine technology. The interactive content was basically an animated version of Honda's Book of Help - which explains the energy-saving philosophy behind the technology. The animation was so good that it will form the basis of the next broadcast television IMA commercial.
- Agency: Zip TV
4. McCain's Oven Chips
Not just oven-ready but heart-warming, too. The hook for this campaign was the 25th anniversary of the McCain's brand and the commercial featured an infomercial starring the vintage Blue Peter presenter Valerie Singleton. The interactive element enhanced the nostalgia theme with all sorts of quizzes, competitions and games and images from the 70s.
- Agency: TBWA\London
5. Warner Bros, "Troy"
As with the sportswear manufacturers, the film studios aren't exactly struggling when it comes to finding extra content. The Warners campaign for Troy was the first to do justice to an extended trailer in the interactive domain.
- Agency: Picture Production Company
This interactive golf game was regarded by many as the best example of an advertiser successfully extending its brand values into the interactive area. The Lowe ad also dovetailed well with HSBC's sponsorship of golf events, not least the World Matchplay Championship at Wentworth in October.
- Agency: Weapon 7
BMW continues to be one of the leading innovators in the digital domain - for instance, its BMW Films initiative delivered via broadband internet. So its interactive TV content is always going to be slick and stylish - but what is not so well known is that BMW also excels at data capture when it's running interactive campaigns.
- Agencies: Graphico, Meme Digital
8. Sony Ericsson
This interactive TV domain from Sony Ericsson is as irreverent as it is engaging and another noteworthy thing about its approach is that it's one of a growing number of interactive commercials that don't bother to offer any kind of response mechanism.
- Agencies: Dare, Phosphorus
Every Camelot ad now has a red button on it. In one sense, that's a consequence of legislation demanding that the National Lottery is accessible in as many different ways as humanly possible. But it's also, at the level of pure straightforward functionality, the use of interactive TV at its simplest and most powerful.
- Agencies: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, Sky Creative Services
10. Peugeot 407
The brief was to go further than any previous car advertiser in building a virtual showroom behind the spot ad - and this one has tons of stuff going on top of the usual brochure-ware and data capture. It has also made full use of the fact that interactive domains are less regulated than broadcast ad breaks to show Peugeots screaming down winding Scottish roads.
- Agency: Moving Picture Company
THE 10 TOP-RATING COMMERCIAL TV SHOWS.
1. Euro 2004, France v England, ITV1, Sunday 13 June, 17.8m
ITV got a massive 66 per cent share with this game that saw England draw against France. Sadly, this number did not prove to be portentous. Predictably enough England were knocked out on penalties in the quarter-finals against the tournament hosts, Portugal. You'll notice that footie aside, virtually all the other top shows are broadcast in January or February when there is nothing else to do but sit on the sofa.
2. Coronation Street, ITV1, Monday 16 February, 16.3m
Although Corrie failed to hit the highs achieved by the serial killer Richard Hillman plot last year, there was high drama when Tracy Barlow dropped the bombshell that she was pregnant by Steve McDonnell at his wedding. In case you didn't know, she later gave birth to a lovely daughter, Amy.
3. I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!, ITV1, Monday 9 February, 15.0m
While I'm a Celebrity ... continued to pull in big audiences, we should be grateful it failed to resurrect the career of this particular winner - Kerry McFadden - in quite the same way as previous shows. No Dixons ads for Kerry - in fact she only made the headlines again when her marriage ended shortly afterwards.
4. Euro 2004, England v Switzerland, ITV1, Thursday 17 June, 14.3m
ITV must have been particularly pleased to grab such a huge audience on a Thursday afternoon, given the amount of unregistered pub viewing for the game.
5. A Touch of Frost, ITV1, Sunday 22 February, 13.0m
Despite dressing like a geography teacher, the curmudgeonly Jack Frost continues to be Denton's finest copper. He is also guaranteed to provide a fillip to ITV's ratings when he's wheeled out on duty.
6. Emmerdale, ITV1, Friday 2 January, 11.8m
With plots like this one, which saw a lump of The Woolpack's masonry kill Tricia at a New Year's Eve party, it's no surprise that ITV's Emmerdale is knocking the spots off EastEnders, is it?
7. Heartbeat, ITV1, Sunday 22 February, 11.1m
Heartbeat has reached its 13th series and still shows no sign of flagging. This proves the theory that if you can come up with a soap, set it in Yorkshire and employ comedy characters such as Greengrass or Compo and Clegg, then you are bound to be on to a sure-fire Sunday night winner.
8. Life Begins, ITV1, Monday 16 February, 10.4m
Hoping to emulate the success of Cold Feet, ITV commissioned the show's creator, Mike Bullen, to come up with a replacement. Life Begins starred Caroline Quentin, who later went on to appear in the rather grittier - and less popular - crime drama Blue Murder.
9. Midsomer Murders, ITV1, Sunday 25 January, 10.2m
Aficionados may have mourned the loss of the hapless Sergeant Troy, but viewers still flocked to see who'd be the next of the beleaguered residents of the Midsomer towns to meet a sticky end. Makes you wonder why they don't move to Cawston, where DI Barnaby lives - there are never any murders there.
10. Doc Martin, ITV1, Thursday 2 September, 9.9m
Fortunately, ITV didn't commission this Martin Clunes vehicle as a comedy drama about a homicidal doctor who moves his practice to the Manchester suburbs. Instead, he plays a tactless doctor who moves his practice to Cornwall.
- Congratulations to ITV for its clear run of the top ten.
Channel 4's biggest show was Friends on Friday 25 May with 9.6 million viewers; five's was CSI on Tuesday 13 April with 4 million and Sky One's was The Match on 10 October with 1.8 million.
THE 10 TOP SOUNDTRACKS
1. BBC "Match of the Day"
An extremely clever ad in which the sounds of fans clapping, referees whistling, managers barking instructions and turnstiles turning blend together to form the Match of the Day theme tune, and reinforce the fact that the show is a national institution.
- Agency: BBC Broadcast
2. Honda "Grrrrrr"
Charming woodland animation built around an enchanting little musical ode to the joys of a quiet diesel engine. It might sound a little contrived on paper, but this is undoubtedly one of the ads of the year and its success owes a lot to this funny little soundtrack.
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Artist: Be Nice to the Pigeons
3. British Airways "Flower Duet" orchestral arrangement
Delibe's "Flower Duet" from the opera Lakme is now synonymous with British Airways, but this ad breathes new life into the association. A traveller is confronted by orchestral players, each playing their part of the piece. The ad climaxes with the entire orchestra united on a beach for one final, rousing rendition.
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Track: Flower duet
4. Renault "Thierry and Animal"
Talented, good-looking, French-speaking and far more articulate than his British counterparts, Thierry Henry is one of the country's richest sportsmen and this ad, in which he is cast as a Blue Note drummer, does his reputation no harm whatsoever.
Artist: John Altman
5. Intelligent Finance "monkey house"
This ad features a man being outsmarted by a group of troublesome monkeys. The soundtrack, the opening few bars of an African-influenced jazz track, fits the action perfectly and helps the ad sell a dry product in an amusing way.
Agency: Campbell Doyle Dye
Artist: Herbie Hancock
Track: Watermelon Man
6. Volkswagen "30 years in the making"
This interesting ad that chronicles 30 years in a Volkswagen factory is accompanied by an attention-grabbing track, which, itself, sounds like the product of three musical decades.
Agency: DDB London
Artist: Aphex Twin/LFO
Track: Simon From Sydney Pram Remix.
7. Lynx "getting dressed"
You'd expect Bartle Bogle Hegarty to feature on any music list, but this track, a tender version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, is a little less bombastic than we've come to expect. Nevertheless, it fits the action perfectly.
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Artist: Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
Track: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
8. Walkers "Goodness Gracious Me"
Tara Palmer-Tomkinson joins Gary Lineker for an all-singing, all-dancing pastiche of the Peter Sellers film The Millionairess.
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Artist: Herbert Kretzmer and David Lee, arranged by Gary Bell at Jeff
Track: Goodness Gracious Me
9. BMW "foal"
WCRS matches an awkward, hectic-sounding new release from The Prodigy to equally awkward, hectic visuals in an ad that probably made several unsuspecting Heartbeat viewers jump out of their seats.
Artist: The Prodigy
Track: (You'll Be) Under My Wheels
10. Carling "street football"
This ad features a tune so irritating/catchy that the great, tone-deaf British public have taken to whistling it in shops, bus queues, libraries and even during funerals. It goes to show that you should never underestimate people's ability to latch on to an inane, tuneless jingle in a desperate attempt to belong.
Agency: The Leith Agency
Artist: The 5,6,7,8's
Track: Woo Hoo