ISBA CONFERENCE: Unilever chief attacks ITV over airtime costs

ITV should be ashamed of its crippling airtime costs, according to one of the UK’s biggest advertisers speaking at last week’s Incorporated Society of British Advertisers’ policy conference.

ITV should be ashamed of its crippling airtime costs, according to

one of the UK’s biggest advertisers speaking at last week’s Incorporated

Society of British Advertisers’ policy conference.



Michael Hebel, the chairman of Unilever’s advertising committee, led the

attack on ITV which, he said, had suffered advertising airtime inflation

of 44 per cent over the past five years.



’I’m sure that ITV will not be pleased with this. But the fact is that

they should be ashamed of it. It’s an appalling performance for a brand

leader,’ Hebel told delegates.



The attack came as advertisers again took the opportunity to raise the

issue of extra minutage on ITV, even though calls for nine minutes per

hour of advertising have been consistently rejected by the Independent

Television Commission.



According to Hebel, nine minutes an hour of advertising across all

segments of the day would increase the commercial impact delivery of ITV

and Channel 4 by between 15 and 20 per cent - and would have helped

reduce airtime inflation by almost the same amount.



More than half of ITV inflation is being driven by the channel’s loss of

audience, Hebel said, but advertisers themselves have also contributed

to inflation by chasing discount and overlooking the absolute price

paid.



To combat this, advertisers must incentivise their media buyers for

absolute price performance rather than the discount against station

average price.



’For too long we’ve been our own worst enemy by being part of a system

that rewards suppliers for delivering less.’



Hebel called on advertisers to lobby both ITV and Channel 4 for extra

minutage and called upon the BBC to carry a limited amount of

advertising to alleviate the problem.



His feelings were echoed by advertisers in the audience. Gary

Cunningham, the marketing services director of Procter & Gamble, said he

was disappointed that two of ITV’s biggest customers had been knocked

down on the issue of minutage and criticised ITV for not listening to

its key customers.



Richard Eyre, ITV’s chief executive, said more minutage would reduce

ITV’s competitiveness.