One out of three cheers for the ITV autumn schedule. It's a
curate's egg that goes only a little way to address the fractured
relationship between the network and advertisers and their agencies. The
immediate concern among media buyers is the pressure on them to commit
their clients' money well in advance without being entirely sure when
and where programmes will appear.
More importantly, it will take more than a new schedule containing a few
nuggets that advertisers like to see - notably strong drama and
promising comedy programming - to regain the respect of the
ITV is paying a price for its arrogant assumption that its place as the
most potent delivery system for mass communication was assured. Firm in
its belief that the good times would always roll, ITV became casual in
the management of its relationships with agencies and clients. To make
matters worse, it focused too heavily on the emerging media
independents, forgetting the source of its revenue (the advertisers) and
those providing advertisers with their creativity (the agencies).
Belatedly, the network has realised how wrong it has been, only now
coming to terms with the depth of feeling among the advertising
community that ITV has been happy enough to take its money but not
diverting nearly enough of it into programming.
Small wonder that a lot of agencies and advertisers are rubbing their
hands in silent glee at the prospect of payback time. It's a natural
reaction - and one for which ITV must take the blame - but it's a
The fact remains that ITV, despite its imperfections, still has an
almost unassailable position as a mass delivery system for advertising.
Young and upmarket audiences remain its problem areas but the autumn
schedules indicate a concern to rectify this.
The ad industry is right to demand it gets a bigger ITV bang for its
bucks, to shake the network out of its complacency and to ensure it
listens to what clients and agencies have to say. But it's one thing to
give ITV a rap across the knuckles, quite another to cut it off at the
knees. Each side needs the other too much for that.