ITV moves on P&G airtime challenge

The ITV sales houses broke ranks this week to concede that they will entertain the idea of extra advertising minutage on their stations.

The ITV sales houses broke ranks this week to concede that they

will entertain the idea of extra advertising minutage on their

stations.



In response to the first top-level call for more minutage from the

country’s leading advertiser, Procter and Gamble, at Tuesday’s

Incorporated Society of British Advertisers policy conference, both

Laser Sales and TSMS signalled that they are willing to consider adding

minutage, within certain criteria, to meet advertisers’ demands.



Carlton UK Sales has also indicated that, while it rejects the idea of

more minutage in peak time, it is willing to manipulate existing

minutage patterns across the day to increase advertising levels in the

early peak segment.



Tim Wootton, the chairman of TSMS, said: ’We’ve decided to speak out

because it would be very bad if we continued to give advertisers the

view that we’re not prepared to listen and don’t understand their

concerns.



’We’ve never taken a dogmatic view on minutage and we’d certainly look

at what could be done to address advertisers’ demands. But a flexible

approach to minutage must be allowed to work both ways - we should have

the right not to sell all minutage on smaller stations.’



Wootton’s views were echoed by Laser Sales’ chief executive, Mick

Desmond, who said: ’There must be a quid pro quo. Minutage could be used

like a throttle - turned up in times of high demand but reduced in times

of low demand.’ Desmond warned, however, that this flexible approach

would not work within the current station average price trading

mechanism.



Martin Bowley, the managing director of Carlton UK Sales, proposed a

different approach. ’We already optimise our airtime around popular

programmes, so there’s no room for any more minutage there without

cutting into programming time, and it would be a brave P&G that tinkered

with the ingredients of its popular brands.’



Bowley expressed his concern for the viewer, ’whose interests seem to be

ignored in this debate’, but suggested one possible solution to the

problem: ’The best you’re going to get is the flexibility to move

airtime from daytime to early peak - up to 19.30.’ He warned changes

would require consent from the Independent Television Commission: ’We

should not raise the expectations of advertisers only to have them

dashed against the rocks of rules and regulations.’



The encouraging response from ITV followed a frank and wide-ranging

speech from Paul Polman, the managing director of Procter and Gamble

UK.



He proposed the abolition of the station average price trading

mechanism, a more flexible method of increasing minutage, and a ’mixed

economy’ BBC.



Damning ITV for being content to ’manage long-term decline’ and calling

for a change in its mindset, Polman declared British television

advertising costs were both ’out of control’ and out of kilter with the

cost inputs to P&G brands from other areas. He blamed this on demand

exceeding supply.



Polman contrasted the 47 per cent rise in television advertising costs

over the past five years with the 14 per cent increase in RPI and said

this was ’clearly unacceptable’.



Polman criticised ITV’s tendency to be ’inward-looking’, blaming this on

a lack of competition.



He also accused some regional ITV stations of being ’more concerned with

how to get a bigger share of the ITV revenue cake, rather than thinking

how they could make a bigger cake’.



Polman proposed a new solution to the minutage question: ’TV companies

should at least support a change in the regulations to keep the current

seven minutes as the minimum daily average, but allow the maximum daily

average to rise to nine minutes.’



On the station average price trading mechanism, Polman said: ’P&G buys

advertising in more than 140 countries around the world, and I have

never seen such an odd way to buy and sell advertising.



I wonder how many managing directors have been fooled by a slick media

buyer into thinking they have got a great deal because there is a big

discount versus station average price. The truth is that station average

price is a fairly meaningless number.’



Polman said he remained ’to be convinced of how effective the ITV

rebranding and advertising campaigns have been so far’, and urged ITV to

set its sights on the BBC and to aggressively winning over its

audience.



But he declared it ’amazing that ITV has more restrictions than the BBC

on what it can and cannot do when it comes to scheduling’. He called for

ITV to be given more freedom in scheduling decisions they believe will

deliver commercial audiences.



John Hooper, the director-general of the ISBA, added: ’We will be taking

Paul Polman’s (minutage) proposal to the ITC. It is too important an

issue to let it drag on.’