Media Headliner: Salmon hopes ITV4 will revive parent's image

The marketing and strategy director says the launch will show ITV's ambition to change perceptions.

ITV has managed to attract more notoriety than Kate Moss in recent weeks. All eyes are focused on it, following the management blood-letting last month that saw the departure of Mick Desmond, the chief executive of ITV Broadcasting, amid problems with ITV1's audience share.

But cutting a confident swathe through the Gray's Inn Road corridors is the small, determined figure of Clare Salmon, who was hired as ITV's marketing director in January and has recently been promoted to director of marketing and commercial strategy. She seems very much at ease with the new regime, saying: "It's an environment that recognises the need for change - there's a sense of urgency. The ambition of the fast-forward restructuring is for us all to work in a more collaborative way."

This week, her skills as a marketer will come under the microscope when the new digital channel for men, ITV4, is launched. According to Salmon, ITV4's target audience feels alienated by ITV1, reads a quality newspaper and favours the BBC. "The purpose of ITV4 is to make men who don't like ITV love ITV," she declares.

With a new series of Kojak and the US hit show Invasion Iowa running alongside premier sport such as the Champions League, ITV4 is targeting a new, affluent audience. The ITV4 ident provides a foretaste of the new ITV branding to be unveiled in January. Salmon says: "When ITV4 launches, you will see how ambitious we are to reshape people's perception of ITV."

ITV has recently been cross-promoting its smaller channels effectively, bringing in viewers to ITV2 and ITV3. But this has attracted criticism from agencies who want to buy into broader audiences. One agency source says: "ITV has never taken marketing seriously and because audiences are declining, they are cross-promoting to a smaller and smaller group. They need to market themselves to people that have drifted away."

When Salmon's petite, energetic feet hit ITV's floors in January, she commissioned a segmentation study of 6,000 consumers and their appetite for TV as part of a broader spectrum of entertainment. It is the lynchpin of her marketing strategy, and the addition of the "commercial strategy" bit to her title signals her efforts to put these findings to use. She has also taken on responsibility for programme publicity.

Salmon admits ITV has not been effectively communicating the full body of its content to advertisers. This is despite the appointment last year of Justin Sampson as the director of customer relationship management (both Salmon and Sampson report directly to Ian McCulloch, ITV's commercial director). "We will aspire to give advertisers a better understanding of who we can reach and the things to reach them with," Salmon says.

She faced similar challenges during her days at the AA (where she was responsible for the successful "Just AAsk" campaign), Centrica and the Prudential. With the AA and Centrica, she also had to rein in different service strands to market a more homogeneous brand to consumers.

Agencies that have worked with her praise her approach. Nick Manning, the chief executive of OMD, formerly an AA agency, says: "She's extraordinarily bright, fun, fair and damn good company. She's very firm but she understands agency life and the pressures we are under. She used to be a racing cyclist and there are elements of that in her life. There's a lot of drive there."

John Townshend, the executive creative director of Rapier, another AA agency, adds: "She's come from a Boston Consulting background so she has the big-picture approach to life. She's an extremely powerful person, but she's bright and nice to work with."

Salmon has already reviewed ITV's media account and appointed MindShare.

Bartle Bogle Hegarty resigned the creative business after Salmon brought in M&C Saatchi, with which she worked at the AA, on a project basis. M&C Saatchi will continue to work with ITV and no pitch is planned, but Salmon adds: "I'm not going to say anything is permanent."

Switching to the media world from AA Financial Services seems to suit Salmon to a T. "The luvviness of it is great fun, I love all that," she admits. She is no shrinking violet. This is, after all, the woman who got a Porsche dealer to spray her Boxster the same colour as her prized shocking pink Gina slingbacks. One industry source says: "She's very determined and has a very strong sense of belief that she's right about everything."

Earlier this month, she hired the former Boymeetsgirl founder David Pemsel as the marketing director to oversee ITV's overall brand strategy for all its on- and off-air marketing. With 150 people working under her, Salmon says appointments such as Pemsel's are crucial: "We've talked a lot about making marketing more important, so we need a larger team of professionals to do that."

Critics say ITV needs to increase its £11 million ad budget to push its brand successfully, but Salmon insists that access to on-air time is key and that careful audience evaluation will make sure every penny is well-spent. However, more important than any of this is the quality of ITV's product. Even a woman who can sell shocking pink to a Porsche dealer will struggle unless there's an improvement on-air.

THE LOWDOWN Age: 42 Lives: Mayfair Family: Jessica (daughter, aged ten) Most treasured possession: Pink Porsche Favourite TV show: Afterlife (at the moment) Interests outside work: My pony, Lucky. Bicycle. Travelling endlessly Favourite TV ad: Toyota ads Describe yourself in three words: Sturdy as a goat