ITV PRESENTATION: Advertisers praise brave new ITV

Advertisers and agencies have heralded as brave and revolutionary ITV’s pledge to reverse the decline in its peak-time audience share by the year 2000 with a radical set of performance targets.

Advertisers and agencies have heralded as brave and revolutionary

ITV’s pledge to reverse the decline in its peak-time audience share by

the year 2000 with a radical set of performance targets.



The strategy, outlined to advertisers and agencies on Monday, is founded

on seven key tenets including a new organisational structure at the

Network Centre, a major overhaul of programming and scheduling, a new

marketing initiative and lobbying for fair taxation and regulation (see

box).



In programming terms, ITV is promising to take more risks, improve its

comedy - ’more of less’ - increase its number of ’banker drama series’,

reposition factual programming and build ITV Sport as a brand.



Central to this new approach are ITV’s new share objectives, the first

time the channel has published specific targets. Taking its definition

of peak-time as 19.00 to 22.30, ITV is aiming to stabilise its peak-time

audience share at 38 per cent this year and build it up to 39 per cent

in 1999 and 40 per cent by 2000.



The average peak-time share in 1997 was 38.7 per cent. It is still the

largest single channel, but its share has fallen steadily from 44.3 per

cent in 1994. Last year was the first year ITV’s share dropped below 40

per cent. The 1998 target of 38 per cent, though down on 1997, is being

positioned as a stabilising measure. Once the new programming and

scheduling policy gets under way in 1999, Eyre believes share will

rise.



Despite some disappointment at the lack of detail regarding scheduling,

especially on the thorny issue of whether to move News at Ten, the

advertising community welcomed the new spirit of openness.



’ITV has not exactly stretched itself in the targets it has set,’ Graham

Duff, the chief executive of Zenith Media, said. ’But it has set an

agenda, started tackling the issues and is being very clear. The

mandarins of ITV appear to have given Eyre the remit he wanted. That’s

enormously positive. Now the channel has to get on and do it.’



Jim Marshall, MediaVest’s chief executive, said the targets engendered a

great deal of confidence and, though a 40 per cent share is eminently

achievable, they were certainly not soft targets. ’ITV has struggled

because of the tide of competition, but while it has been suffering, the

BBC has maintained its performance. If the BBC can do it, ITV certainly

can,’ he said.



Marshall admitted he would have been more encouraged if ITV had expanded

on its targets for the under 55s, ’but I can see there’s a danger in

doing too much too quickly’. And he called on the advertising community

to give ITV time to get it right. ’Anyone who uses these targets against

ITV in the short term is being irresponsible.’



Mandy Pooler, the managing director of MindShare, described the strategy

as ’ambitious’, but she too wanted more commitment on improving the

youth profile. ’ITV talked a lot about 16- to 24-year-olds and

acknowledged that they are in freefall, but said it couldn’t find an

example of mass ABC1 and 16- to 24-year-old coverage at the same time.

It said if it went off in pursuit of young audiences, it would take its

eye off everything else. I don’t think I buy that - I think ITV can buy

into 16 to 24s.’



Karen Pearce, the head of media and production at the Central Office of

Information, said: ’We would give the policy a cautious welcome. We’re

slightly disappointed that we have such a long time to wait - it won’t

really kick in until 1999. We’re also disappointed that ITV has gone for

this broader area - the youth market is very important to us. We would

also have liked to hear more about the new programming, and I think we

were all expecting to hear something about News at Ten.’



Alan Brydon, the deputy managing director of CIA Medianetwork, embraced

the new openness and praised the strength of the new Network Centre

team.



But he thought the targets were a little soft. ’ITV hasn’t been specific

about its promise to pull in more upmarket viewers, which is a bit of a

non-promise when the population as a whole is becoming more upmarket

anyway.’



Bernard Balderston, media manager of Procter & Gamble, thought it a

positive move, but cited concern over non-peak segments. ’What was

missing was information on the degree to which ITV will drag back the

audience lost in daytime and off-peak - dayparts of which we are

substantial users.’



Martin Bowley, the managing director of Carlton Sales, said the Network

Centre had the full support of the ITV sales teams. ’Sitting there on

Monday I felt enormously proud of how brave and bold ITV was being. I

know it has spent a lot of time listening to what my customers want. The

consultation period is over and it’s time to get on with it.’



But for all ITV’s eagerness to listen to its commercial customers,

Pooler sounded a note of caution: ’My one concern is that it listens too

much to advertisers. At the end of the day, we know bugger all about

programming.’



Live Issue, p13



THE SEVEN DRIVERS OF ITV’S SUCCESS



- A new streamlined organisational structure with an empowered central

executive



- A major programme review with significant investment above

inflation



- A complete review of the architecture of the schedule to make it more

competitive



- Clearer channel branding and a more aggressive, integrated programme

marketing campaign



- A commercial strategy that guarantees efficient programme

acquisition



- A greater focus on the customer by remaining the most cost-effective

channel for building brands



- A public affairs strategy to safeguard the pre-eminence of the channel

through fair taxation and regulation.