ISBA is dusting off its proposals for the BBC to carry
The idea that government ads should be transferred to the BBC as a first
step has been discussed. Some members, most notably the influential fmcg
companies on ISBA’s media strategy group, are enthusiastic.
Are government ads on the Beeb a Trojan horse allowing commercial
advertisers to follow? Could the idea be made to work effectively and
what do other parts of the industry think? Among the COI agencies there
is little enthusiasm and our media buying shops think the proposal does
not address the issues facing advertisers.
Moving government advertising on to the BBC would not achieve the
objective of freeing up commercial airtime. Total COI spend on ITV and
Channels 4 and 5 represented only 0.8 per cent of all commercial
minutage in 1998 - a drop in the ocean by anyone’s standards.
The solution to the problem lies in increasing the commercial minutage
allowed per hour.
There is also the question of potential savings, which could be used to
benefit the licence-holder. It must be assumed that the BBC would levy a
charge for airtime to compensate for the loss of promotional
opportunities, and if it did so then savings would be negated.
With the cost of a copy clearance system, administration of a ratecard
and the production facilities required to accept copy from just one
advertiser, the numbers just do not add up.
Moreover, the ISBA plans would lessen the effectiveness of government
communication. At the moment, the public sector competes with commercial
messages and does so successfully. If government advertisers ceased to
be part of the competitive marketplace, it would not be long before
creative skills became blunted. Worse still, viewers would soon begin to
see our messages as occupying an information ghetto.
Spending taxpayers’ money, as we do, it is imperative that we should
secure effective advertising. The targeting of specific audiences, and
the optimum schedule construction that delivers that targeting, is
crucial to a campaign’s effectiveness. It is unrealistic to assume the
BBC would give us free rein to pick and choose the dayparts and
programmes in which we would like to appear.
Would government advertising be allowed to appear in programmes at all?
Centre-breaks have a proven advantage in terms of higher attention
scores, but it is difficult to imagine the BBC taking kindly to
interrupting a flagship programme to air a government commercial.
Would the COI be able to run long time lengths and take advantage of
short-term tactical opportunities? How could top ’n’ tail work without
other commercials in the break? Would there be only one message per
break or would we face the prospect of back-to-back government ads?
We firmly believe that placing government advertisements on the BBC
would be an ineffective and convoluted way of addressing TV inflation
and would damage advertisement effectiveness. That’s not a proper use of