PERSPECTIVE: ITV must go direct to clients pushing for extra minutage

Just when you thought it was safe to assume relations between the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers and ITV were at their most tense, things go and get worse. Afraid as I am of becoming an inflation bore, when you get headlines in Campaign like ’ITV threatens legal action against ISBA’ you know things are getting spicy. What’s inflamed the situation is a letter ISBA sent to clients trying to rally support for its broadcast policy, including more ad minutage on ITV and ads on the BBC.

Just when you thought it was safe to assume relations between the

Incorporated Society of British Advertisers and ITV were at their most

tense, things go and get worse. Afraid as I am of becoming an inflation

bore, when you get headlines in Campaign like ’ITV threatens legal

action against ISBA’ you know things are getting spicy. What’s inflamed

the situation is a letter ISBA sent to clients trying to rally support

for its broadcast policy, including more ad minutage on ITV and ads on

the BBC.



Advertisers are being asked to sign a petition which will then be sent

to the Government, dropping some none-too-subtle hints about moving

money into other EU markets if UK TV inflation doesn’t come down, and

pointing out their role in keeping the UK economy afloat. ISBA is even

offering PR for those clients who move their money off ITV into other

media. Is that an ITV share price I hear falling?



Is ISBA just doing its job? Well, no-one, including ITV, would dispute

that advertisers have a case when it comes to TV inflation. Costs are

set to rise again dramatically, though ironically much of the next wave

of inflation will be demand-driven.



But put yourself, for a moment, in Richard Eyre’s position. As ITV’s

chief executive, Eyre is trying to galvanise a set of suspicious ITV

shareholders behind the Network Centre’s new spirit of appeasement. Then

along comes a heavy-handed ISBA stomping on a delicate political

situation.



Nobody would claim that ITV is a tender, vulnerable soul which needs

special love and attention. It’s a huge, very successful, very lucrative

machine which hasn’t been doing its job as well as it ought in recent

years. Hardly a candidate for mass sympathy.



But there’s one thing most people seem to be agreed on - that the new

ITV Network Centre team are trying. Yes, they won’t budge on minutage,

but more minutage can only come in daytime, because peaktime already

carries the maximum nine minutes per hour.



And who advertises during daytime? A number of big fmcg advertisers who

also happen to be some of the most vocal members of ISBA, with their own

media executives pursuing their own professional agendas.



How many advertisers really understand the issues in ISBA’s letter and

know the alternative ITV view? And how many could really switch their

advertising spend out of the UK in protest at TV inflation? Whichever

way you look at it, the answer seems to be that a handful of top clients

are running the show.



ITV must get a dialogue back on track with ISBA; there are too many

areas of regulation and government policy where they share common views

for co-operation to cease. But ITV also has to get off its backside and

talk to clients directly if its voice is to be heard by the rump of the

advertising community. ISBA certainly isn’t listening



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