MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE; A top tip for clients - understand the TV trading system

Do you remember those lessons at school where, about a month before the exams, the teacher would give you his or her special hints for passing? This was the sign for everybody to pay attention and, for once, take proper notes.

Do you remember those lessons at school where, about a month before the

exams, the teacher would give you his or her special hints for passing?

This was the sign for everybody to pay attention and, for once, take

proper notes.



So it was last week at the Campaign and Marketing conference on media

myths. The speaker was John Blakemore, the UK advertising director for

SmithKline Beecham and a member of the smallest club in the world -

those who really understand how TV trading works. As Blakey got going,

the room became hushed. But five minutes into his speech, there was one

clear sound from the audience: that of furious scribbling as everybody -

clients, agency folk, media buyers - rushed to write down his pearls of

wisdom. For most of them, me included, it was like being in a

masterclass.



Of course it was, in one sense, pure luck that the conference coincided

with a momentous week for ITV. A few days earlier, Carlton had snatched

Westcountry from under United’s nose, effectively firing the starting

gun in the next round of ITV consolidation. Apart from that, in last

week’s issue of Campaign there was news of CIA’s settlement with Laser

and, more significantly, a hint from Laser that it might move to client-

by-client trading. Last, but by no means least, TSMS announced in

Campaign that it was formally to introduce volume discounts based, not

on share of spend within ITV, but of total TV.



Together, all this says that the game has changed and will continue to

change faster than most of us can probably guess. Believe me, if it’s

going to be hard for agencies and media buyers to keep up with (and on

top of) this new world, it’s going to be doubly hard for clients.

Talking informally to some clients at the conference, I was amazed at

how few had a solid grasp of the way media as a whole is going, let

alone TV.



Of course, some clients will say that they have more important things to

worry about and that is what they have agencies for anyway. ‘Why keep a

dog and bark yourself?’ they will say. Maybe. But it is precisely

because they have so many other things to do that clients have to be

secure in their understanding of how their media money is spent. Can you

imagine the marketing director of a company saying to his board: ‘Er, I

was so busy hiring a PR agency, arranging a trade promotion and

commissioning point-of-sale material, I didn’t notice we owed pounds

150,000 to LWT’? And the problem is compounded by the hire-and-fire

approach taken by clients, whereby marketing directors just have time to

get their feet under the table before they’re off.



Should clients hire their own version of Blakey?



Yes, if they’re big enough. If they’re not, then somebody at the top has

to get committed to the media process. Without that, they might as well

start burning the fivers now.



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