Ah well, it looks like shoot-out time again in the ITV buying corral
(Campaign, last week) now that the ITV boys have signalled their wish to
clean up the town.
Will peace break out, or will the ITV hitman, in the unlikely shape of
the company’s auditors, Rickards, win the day? And will ITV’s attempts
to make sales houses’ finance directors personally responsible (as
principals) cause everybody to sit up and take notice this time?
It’s a tough one. Certainly, it is possible to lay some of the blame
with the agencies and the ‘optimistic’ spend forecasts they promise to
get greater discounts. This is then compounded when, quite
understandably, clients’ budgets chop and change and that promised spend
disappears. But it’s hard to see exactly how, or indeed why, they should
change their behaviour since they got away with it.
Then again, how much of this can be laid at the door of an ITV sales
system where power is concentrated in only three houses and clings to an
outdated trading system? And isn’t this just another way for the sales
houses to check up on each other?
In the end, it may be that ITV will regret last week’s move to up the
ante. Already, reactions to what are seen as heavy-handed tactics are so
strong that the whole move may turn out to be counter-productive.
For the truth, surely, must be that both sides have too much to lose to
force a public showdown. Each side has too much dirt on the other -
after all, in any other business something as fundamental as this would
have long since come to court - to want to wash their dirty linen in the
public view of a court case.
As ever, though, it is the innocents - in the shape of agencies that do
meet their deals - that suffer as long as those that don’t get away with
it and are seen to. In the end, that sense of outrage may force a
solution. But it would be better done behind closed doors.