SPOTLIGHT ON: BT’S TV BUYING: Looking for a thin silver lining to cushion BT’s TV desertion - IDK Media has lost BT’s TV buying account Alasdair Reid examines the fall out.

In the aftermath of BT’s decision last week to award its pounds 110 million television buying account to the Allmond Partnership, there was some pretty lurid speculation going around town. The most popular canard was that Tony Kenyon had chosen to fall on his sword. And if he hadn’t already resigned, it was only a matter of time.

In the aftermath of BT’s decision last week to award its pounds 110

million television buying account to the Allmond Partnership, there was

some pretty lurid speculation going around town. The most popular canard

was that Tony Kenyon had chosen to fall on his sword. And if he hadn’t

already resigned, it was only a matter of time.



For starters, there was the personal angle. Kenyon, boss of the

incumbent on the BT account, IDK Media, had lost the account to one of

his former employees, Nigel Allmond, aka ’Odd Job’, who left IDK last

year to set up TAP with backing from the Omnicom group media specialist,

Manning Gottlieb Media. ’Kenyon’s been seen to be shagged stupid by one

of his proteges,’ comments the boss of a rival media company. ’That

hardly perpetuates his aura of invincibility, now does it?’



Kenyon, not amused by this jibe, is no less enamoured by some of the

structural analysis floating around. This line of argument predicts dire

consequences for the whole Tempus Group - the holding company not just

of IDK, but of CIA Medianetwork and its television airtime buying

specialist, the Negotiation Centre, of which Kenyon is also chief

executive.



The theory is that the BT budget is so big that it propels an agency

into the buying superleague, able to command the best agency deals, the

biggest discounts in the market. Which, in turn, means it can pull in

new business on the back of the keenest buying performance in town and

still make a tidy profit. Rival agencies calculate that, if the BT

budget alone is ’managed’ astutely, it should deliver upwards of pounds

750,000 per annum straight to the agency bottom line.



Problem is that for this theory to work you’d have to assume that the

Negotiation Centre and IDK were one and the same, or that the billings

of the two were pooled - and to do that you have to ignore some recent

history and the circumstances by which the Negotiation Centre came into

being.



Tempus, in its previous incarnation as the CIA Group, brought Tony

Kenyon in to oversee TV trading on CIA Medianetwork accounts following

an airtime trading scandal a couple of years back, when CIA found it was

not able to meet ITV share deal commitments.



It bought out the equity in IDK that it didn’t already own, and employed

Kenyon to keep hold of the reins at IDK while also heading up the newly

created Negotiation Centre. It was a neat arrangement but there was one

major hurdle: IDK’s BT business. BT expressly stated that it didn’t want

its budget used to bale out deficits on other CIA trading accounts. So

the BT account was ring-fenced and, according to all reliable sources in

the airtime market, has remained so to this day.



In other words, last week’s speculation was wild in the extreme. The BT

loss does not, for instance, put the Negotiation Centre out of the

running in two key pitches this month - the pounds 30 million Lloyds-TSB

business and the pounds 18 million Kwik-Save/Somerfield account. Nor

does it mean that its existing clients will now take a caning at the

hands of ITV sales points in this autumn’s negotiations.



It is devastating for IDK, Kenyon concedes. But he also argues that, if

he were to put a ’Mandelsonian’ spin on things, it could be all to the

good for the Negotiation Centre. BT’s buying will, he modestly asserts,

now start to drift out a point or two, thus freeing up some discount in

the airtime market.



Unfortunately, this, like so much last week, is wishful thinking. As one

senior ITV sales source puts it: ’BT is one of the few advertisers

spending money every day of the year. If it drops its level of spend, it

can’t expect the same level of discount. But if it maintains the same

level of investment, we will continue to support the client.’



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