Media: Double Standards - Seasoned television negotiators talk tactics

Two agency TV chiefs reveal how they secure the best deals, describe the masochistic buzz they get from trading and explain why golf isn't the best way to win them over.

CHRIS HAYWARD - HEAD OF BROADCAST, ZENITHOPTIMEDIA

- Is the group trading system (OPera, Group M etc) working? Were there any teething problems?

I have no first-hand experience of group trading. However, I think the important issue is that size is not all-important. Big does not guarantee excellence in negotiation. Negotiation is about using preparation and intelligence to secure the best terms for our clients, it is not about brute force and the ability to shout loud.

- What is your style of negotiation? How do you usually get your way?

I like to think I am well prepared, determined and focused. The key to negotiation is to know when to say yes. I think most people with whom I negotiate would agree I do not like bullshit. This means that if broadcasters insist on making outrageous or stupid demands, I make it clear that I have better things to do with my time.

- How much will you enjoy the imminent trading season?

I get a real masochistic buzz from the whole negotiation season. It is not the be-all and end-all of my job, but I would fail to see how anyone could do it without enjoying the trading part. I particularly enjoy the broadcasters' opening presentations, when they forecast their share of the TV revenue market for the next year. I never cease to be amused when the aggregate of all the forecast shares never adds up to anything less than 110 per cent.

- What is the hardest thing about working in TV?

There is almost too much audience information.

- What is your favourite television programme?

There is no programme in particular, but I watch Only Fools and Horses and Blackadder whenever they are on. And I'm a sucker for whodunnits such as Miss Marple, Foyle's War and Poirot (pass the cocoa).

- What TV channel do you watch the most?

If you were to ask my wife, she would confirm that I think the only good channel is one showing sport.

- How well is Contract Rights Renewal working?

CRR has provided a very good discipline in terms of ITV1 negotiations. My experience is that the negotiators have abided by the regulations and I expect them to continue to do so, although a lot of nonsense is talked about them reverting to old habits.

- Are you friendly with anyone at the media owners or do you keep a professional distance?

It is a crucial part of my role to have a business relationship with all the broadcasters. This entails seeing them not just in formal meetings but in more relaxed environments. I would like to think I get on well with them on these kind of occasions. I do, however, like to draw some lines - I would not see them for dinner at weekends.

- How well are ITV and other terrestrial broadcasters coping with the multichannel age?

It is obvious that ITV and Channel 4 are equipping themselves very well for the multichannel age. It will be interesting to see whether five develops its own digital channels or whether it will acquire some.

- Does Ofcom need to review the TV trading system?

It's not up for debate. Ofcom has stated its intention to do so, so it is inevitable. My advice to people in my position is to prepare themselves for change.

- Is golf still the best way to network? Can you suggest any alternative strategies?

I'm probably not the best person to ask because I'm not part of the golf circuit. If you really want to impress me, an invitation to a quality football match might help.

NEIL JOHNSTON - HEAD OF TV BUYING, OMD UK

- Is the group trading system (OPera, Group M etc) working? Were there any teething problems?

OPera is 18 months old and is undoubtedly working. We are geared up for the annual TV negotiations on behalf of OMD UK, PHD and Manning Gottlieb OMD clients. We have a clear negotiation strategy in place for each client with each broadcaster.

- What is your style of negotiation? How do you usually get your way?

I have mellowed in the past couple of years. When I spent all day, every day buying spots, I was a phone smasher with a very quick temper. Now I am much more measured, much less likely to fly off the handle. The art of negotiation is to construct an argument based upon fact and to know your own best and worst acceptable position.

- How much will you enjoy the imminent trading season?

OPera has put a layer between me and the negotiations so, truthfully, not as much as a couple of years ago. At this time of year I work even more closely with Marc (Bignell) and John (Overend) to represent the interests and demands of OMD UK's customers. Our trading approach means it is crucial to work as a tight team over the next three months. Of course, we love this part of our working year!

- What is the hardest thing about working in TV?

At the minute, personally, it is balancing the day job of running our clients' TV business and the buying department, while working on new-business pitches.

- What is your favourite television programme?

The Champions League. Although the half-time summary from the pitch in this season's ITV coverage is a bit weird.

- What TV channel do you watch the most?

Channel 4, probably.

- How well is Contract Rights Renewal working?

CRR is a mathematical formula that affects advertisers' share into ITV1, based upon ITV1's share of commercial impacts. It works the same as it did when it was introduced. Nothing has changed.

- Are you friendly with anyone at the media owners or do you keep a professional distance?

Maintaining professionalism does not need to come at the expense of personal relationships. Most of the TV sales guys are intelligent, funny individuals - hard not to like. I hope some would consider me a friend, although I guess some would not!

- How well are ITV and other terrestrial broadcasters coping with the multichannel age?

More4 has started strongly and ITV4 looks good. Five is trying to play catch-up . The key point is, if you do not look after the main channel, any ratings growth on your multichannel offerings does not make up the difference.

- Does Ofcom need to review the TV trading system?

Ofcom knows how TV is traded. It was an integral part of the negotiations for the ITV merger - witness CRR. The trading system has evolved, but not changed, since the ITV merger, so I cannot see the reason for a review now.

- Is golf still the best way to network? Can you suggest any alternative strategies?

Golf takes years of practise to master and I do not have the time. I have been practising watching sport and drinking beer for years. If I say so myself, I am really quite good at it. That is my strategy and I'm sticking to it.