EDITORIAL: ITV's 'arrogance' is angering its clients

You can usually rely on COI Communications' chief executive, Carol

Fisher, to say what she thinks. And in speaking out against the

"arrogance" of ITV last week, she seemed to be voicing the feelings of

many advertisers frustrated by what they see as ITV's high-handed

presumption that advertisers can't do without it.



As one of ITV's biggest clients, you might think COI would receive

rather better treatment. But even in the midst of economic slump, it

seems that ITV has been slow to roll up its sleeves and pound the client

beat with the message that TV advertising is up to 13 per cent cheaper

this year than last year.



In fact, some factions of ITV were rolling their sleeves up last week,

but only to perform their golf swing better. While some agencies

cancelled their traditional trips to Cannes this summer, some ITV sales

chiefs jetted off to Spain on a golfing trip - an interesting decision

in the week that Granada's shares fell to their lowest level since 1993

and Carlton slipped 17 per cent.



Anyway, ITV is not taking the slump lying down. While many media owners

have been sensitive and understanding when it comes to the campaigns

pulled because of the US tragedy, ITV is apparently charging airlines a

penalty fee of 20 per cent of the value of the airtime booked, in

cash.



Of course Granada is feeling the squeeze like everyone else and is

understandably desperate to shore up revenues, but this seems like a

particularly bloody-minded way of going about it. Certainly, reaction

from some major advertisers shows that the policy will do nothing at all

for ITV's long-term relationships with clients - although, as Fisher has

already pointed out, client relationships with ITV are few and far

between.



Yet not all advertisers are pulling campaigns and slashing spend; some

are upping their budgets and, funnily enough, COI's ad coffers have

swelled more than most. So it's not surprising that many advertisers

with pennies to spare are looking outside TV. And it's no coincidence,

for example, that the Radio Advertising Bureau has launched another

initiative this month to encourage clients to consider radio. The real

question is when the City - having considered the tumbling shareprices -

will begin demanding similarly intelligent initiatives from ITV's sales

forces. And the second question is whether ITV's sales forces can muster

the nous and humility to drive such initiatives through.



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