EDITORIAL: ITV must win back advertisers' belief

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

community.



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

misguided one.



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.