Media Perspective: What Thinkbox now needs is a period of stableconsistency

By by Ian Darby, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 10 February 2006 12:00AM

So the curse of Thinkbox continues. Last week, another board member of the TV trade body, its chairman, Justin Sampson, was forced to step down because he no longer had a full-time job in broadcasting.

Some months ago, the organisation was dubbed "Brownbox" - in reference to a coffin - when the board members Mark Howe and Mark Wood departed after leaving their respective employers, ids and Sky Media.

So when Sampson was made the first chairman of Thinkbox in October, we warned jokingly that he should watch his back. Yet the bad omens were manifested and Gary Digby, the managing director of ITV Sales, has replaced Sampson as the ITV representative on the Thinkbox board. Andy Barnes, the sales director of Channel 4, takes over Sampson's position as chairman.

It should be no surprise that Barnes steps into this role at such a key time. He all but fronted Thinkbox at its launch a year ago, representing the board at its Thinkbox Experience conference last June.

And let's hope Barnes can preside over a more successful second year for the body than its first. To date, it seems to have suffered from more than its share of hiccups.

Critics and, albeit privately, some of the broadcasters, argue that it was a mistake for Thinkbox to launch without an executive body in place and instead appoint Ingram as its virtual administration. This is now being addressed, with Barnes leading the search for a full-time Thinkbox chief executive.

Surely the chief executive's task will be to inject more drive and consistency into the Thinkbox effort. While advertisers have given a lukewarm welcome to events such as the Thinkbox Experience and seem appreciative that at least the TV companies are finally making an effort, the trade body still has some way to go to fulfil its aim to "convey the power of TV and bring to life the many marketing possibilities the medium has to offer".

Quite how this will pan out in the long term is unclear, but in the immediate future we are promised the usual trade body activity of a research initiative.

Hopefully this will give advertisers useful ideas about how to get more out of TV.

On the positive side, at least Thinkbox hasn't imploded. But its board faces a huge challenge. Unlike trade marketing successes, such as the Radio Advertising Bureau, Thinkbox is not promoting a challenger medium that can only grow. It also represents the conflicting commercial interests of eight broadcasters with different needs: put crudely, terrestrial broadcasters intent on preserving the status quo and younger, leaner multichannel companies wanting a bigger slice of the cake. Some stability and consistent decision-making would be a step in the right direction.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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