Feature

ITV 50 Years of Fame: What ITV means to me - Martin Glenn

ITV has played a vital role in the growth of the Walkers brand over the past ten years thanks to the success of its campaign starring Gary Lineker, Martin Glenn writes.

ITV has always been an essential part of my television-watching.

It has also been a fundamental part of Walkers' success. The fact that the channel is watched by more than 45 million people a week makes it a barometer for culture and trends. Without commercial broadcasting, we wouldn't have the incredible variety of products available to us today.

So much of this is due to the stories played out every day in 30-second advertising slots.

When I was at school in the 60s and 70s, everybody seemed to watch the same television shows and ads, which inevitably proved the basis of playground chatter. Favourites were usually the weird and wacky (KP "wigwam" being a particular and, as it happened, ironic favourite) and the vilified were the formulaic, such as Fairy Liquid and Whiskas' "eight out of ten" (doubly ironic, because I ended up making a couple of them when I worked for Pedigree in the 80s).

In 1995, Walkers made the decision to feature Gary Lineker, a local Leicester lad, in what was to become the first of a long line of ads in the "no more Mr Nice Guy" campaign. Gary's retirement from professional football at that time with an unblemished disciplinary record and his links to the brand's home town made him a natural choice to advertise Britain's favourite crisp. Little did we know that the campaign would be as successful as it has been, still running ten years and 50-plus ads later!

We wanted an ad to raise Walkers above the ordinary: consumers love these ads and we get a constant stream of letters from viewers saying how much they enjoy them. ITV has had a huge part to play in all this. Indeed, we broadcast our very first commercial featuring Lineker on ITV in January 1995, following his return from Japan.

We are extremely proud of our partnership with Lineker, one of the longest celebrity advertising partnerships in the industry. The success of the ads lies in the constant reinvention of Lineker in his "no more Mr Nice Guy" role and the scenarios we've placed him in over the years - dolling himself up as Britney Spears, stealing crisps from Des Lynam and, most recently, appearing in full biker leathers to take crisps away from the "hard man of rock", Lemmy of Motorhead. Despite today's fragmented media environment, we still want our ads to be talked about and we think of the campaign in some small way as a "soap" ... ITV still means impact to me.

During its 50 years on air, ITV has changed and innovated to remain relevant to viewers and advertisers as lifestyles and viewing habits have shifted and competition intensified.

Over the next few years, the forces for change will be less commercial than political. Both advertisers and ITV face a society concerned about obesity and the difficulties of raising families in a time of historically cheap food and bewildering choice. My parents thought ads were sometimes silly, but harmless. Today, I think, parents have a less benign attitude because their children's TV viewing is both greater and often unsupervised (70 per cent of children have their own TV in their bedroom). All companies need a tacit licence to operate within society and the terms of that licence are being questioned.

Walkers has also demonstrated that advertisers can play a role in encouraging consumers to make small but effective changes to their lifestyle.

We gave away more than two million pedometers as part of our recent campaign to "Get Britain Walking", an offer that wasn't linked in any way to purchase. The ad for this initiative was the first time a food manufacturer had used a celebrity (Lineker) to promote activity without even mentioning or showing the product. Without ITV's large audience, this campaign would not have reached the number of people it did - immediately following the ad's first screening, more than 100,000 consumers logged on to the website to order their Walk-o-meter.

Our aim as an industry must be to fundamentally change the terms of the debate about obesity, not by denial or evasion but by earning the right to be heard. As PepsiCo has moved forward, so too has ITV. It is a strong cultural barometer and the perfect medium for inciting change, and we look forward to continuing our work with it to communicate the differences we are making and the new confidence and new perspectives - with a little help from Gary, of course.

- Martin Glenn is the president of PepsiCo UK and Ireland.