Media: Behind the Hype - ITV Sales takes initiative to freshen up its image

ITV Sales is getting to grips with customers' fears, post merger.

The new-look ITV, born out of the recent merger between Carlton and Granada, has officially launched into marketing mode.

Having installed its management team for its merged sales houses, the broadcaster is now turning its attention to a sales pitch.

A silver box sporting "One ITV" branding has dropped through the letterboxes of media buyers, ad agencies and advertisers. It lays out the manifesto of Graham Duff, the ITV Sales managing director and the man charged with leading negotiations with agencies over the broadcaster's share of next year's ad budgets.

Inside the expensive-looking package, with its unfussy black-and-white lettering, a CD-Rom offers "highlights" from ITV1 and ITV2's forthcoming programming. It also contains a recorded statement from Duff in which he takes deadpan delivery to new levels.

Duff stresses that the package is intended "not as a communications stop-gap as we go through the huge logistical task of putting together ITV Sales. Nor is it the launch of ITV Sales. We hope it will be a simple tool for customers that will allow them to get a flavour of where ITV is at."

An accompanying booklet outlines what the newly consolidated ITV will attempt to deliver for its customers.

But what effect has it had so far? John Overend, the TV director at PHD, believes it is an innovative product for the broadcaster, but remains to be convinced of its effectiveness.

"There wasn't anything in there that alarmed me. As an agency, it would have no effect at all on our dealings with ITV, but then I suspect it wasn't designed for me to spend more money with ITV. Instead, it is one of many devices to help freshen up its image and, in that respect, it works," he says.

The package also aims to reassure those people who opposed the merger, while also promoting a coherent, proactive approach from the sales operation. After all, many rival broadcasters and advertisers believed the merger would make ITV too strong with its single sales operation controlling around 52 per cent of TV advertising revenue.

The Contracts Rights Renewal remedy - one of the conditions imposed upon the merger by the Competition Commission - has gone some way to ensuring that the deal does not operate against the public interest, by allowing advertisers to renew their contracts with ITV on the same terms as earlier deals.

And the "One ITV" package represents an attempt to put across a positive, "customer-centric" image of ITV. It paints a portrait of a company that has an in-depth understanding of the needs of the advertising community.

Andy Roberts, the TV director for Starcom Motive, says: "The sentiment is really interesting. I think it's the kind of thing we would expect from ITV. The issue with the regulations that have been imposed on them from a trading perspective means the only way they can improve their income is by selling ITV as a whole. I think this is a sign that Graham Duff is taking the initiative."

The "One ITV" package may not persuade agencies to increase their advertising spend. But, if nothing else, it is a signal that the broadcaster is serious about marketing its new brand.

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