PERSPECTIVE: TV buyers should now see the need for accountability

There is a big story in the American trade press. General Motors, it is reported, is cutting back severely on its magazine spend. This has to be taken seriously (see story below). It is the magazine medium’s largest advertiser, spending more than dollars 500 million per annum. Publishers may claim to be sanguine about the news, but it’s impossible to believe them.

There is a big story in the American trade press. General Motors,

it is reported, is cutting back severely on its magazine spend. This has

to be taken seriously (see story below). It is the magazine medium’s

largest advertiser, spending more than dollars 500 million per annum.

Publishers may claim to be sanguine about the news, but it’s impossible

to believe them.



GM is anxious to use magazines more effectively. Reports suggest the

company is concerned it may not be targeting consumers tightly, which

suggests that broader-based titles will be harder hit. They also suggest

GM is asking its agencies to justify using spreads and inserts against

single-page ads. It wants more rigorous testing of print executions. An

executive is quoted as saying: ’Print has to do more to prove its

value.’



In the UK, Vauxhall told Campaign that there are no plans to follow

suit, although publishing houses here must be watching developments

nervously.



To be fair, it appears the UK magazine industry itself is alert to any

potential threat. The Periodical Publishers Association’s Quality of

Readership Survey, launched last month, is just the kind of research

initiative one presumes GM would commend. The results - due out in two

weeks - will be fascinating.



The story proves yet again that clients are not happy about

advertising’s lack of accountability. As if proof were needed, you need

only turn to the speeches of Simon Bullimore of Mars and Michael Hebel

of Unilever at last week’s ISBA conference on the subject of the cost of

TV airtime in the UK. They echoed the views expressed forthrightly by

Procter & Gamble’s Paul Polman at last year’s event. One year on, is

there any sign that the TV sales houses are listening?



They would do well to. In the past few weeks I’ve studied some

fascinating and innovative media plans as a judge at a big media

agency’s internal awards. The recurring theme was that the prohibitive

cost of television advertising forced the agency to recommend

alternative media. In turn, the decision not to use television did not

restrict the agency’s planners, but actually coaxed more inventive and -

apparently - effective plans out of them. There’s a parallel with the

creativity that has resulted from the ever more burdensome regulation of

tobacco ads.



The television advertising sales community would do well to ponder

levels of accountability as it sits down this week at the Barcelona

conference.



One of the many disappointments of last year’s event in Monte Carlo was

the failure to address accountability. Old hands may dismiss this

subject as an old chestnut, and claim nothing ever changes. But they may

suddenly wake up to find themselves the victim of a GM-style initiative.

They can’t say they haven’t been warned.