Media Forum: Is it a new era for TV trading?

The changing of the old guard may spark fresh thinking.

When Fru Hazlitt joined ITV as the managing director of commercial and online in June 2010, the appointment was seen in some quarters as an interesting but quirky theatrical gesture by ITV's (relatively) new chief executive, Adam Crozier. Theatrical - but perhaps irrelevant in the wider scheme of things because its sales boss, Gary Digby, would surely, as had long been the case, get on with doing the real business in the cut-and-thrust arena of the airtime market.

Good theory. Because, of course, Digby has since departed - and his successor is Kelly Williams, formerly Channel 5's (relatively) innovative sales boss. Williams has been replaced at Channel 5 by Nick Bampton, formerly of VBS. Bampton is widely feted as another innovator, who compensated for lack of clout at VBS by seeking to form mutually beneficial partnerships with advertisers, rather than trying to outmanoeuvre them.

More recently, of course, it has been Channel 4's turn. It announced, back at the start of April, that Andy Barnes, its sales director since 1997, was moving on to pastures new. A successor has not as yet been unveiled.

But it's worth speculating that he (or she) is unlikely to evoke the more brutal aspects of airtime trading's black arts. You could also argue the personnel moves we've seen in the past year add up to a generational change. And, with the arrival of new faces in new places, there's every indication we'll see new philosophies being applied.

At a recent ISBA conference, Hazlitt argued that the major broadcasters had to be more creative when it came to methods of revenue generation. And, last week, another possible transformational factor returned - there's every indication that growth in TV revenue has stalled again. So, have we entered a genuinely new era in the commercial TV marketplace?

Absolutely, Hazlitt responds: "ITV's goal is to create maximum value for clients. We will achieve this by addressing their needs across all relevant channels. The 30-second spot remains an important and vital part of that mix. However, there's an ever-growing need for multiplatform deals, partnerships and other activity beyond this. We are developing the skills and the structure to deliver this.

"We aim to add value to every campaign, working with clients to offer integrated marketing opportunities to promote brands across ITV's multiple platforms. A great example of this is our partnership with Marks & Spencer to launch its new kidswear campaign."

Which was, of course, impressive - but some media agency sources question whether we're likely to see anything structurally different or radically new in the TV business. For instance, Andy Spray, the head of investment at PHD, points out that collaborative partnerships between client and broadcaster have been on the agenda for years.

He adds: "The TV market is constantly evolving. To say that trading and agency deals are becoming less important is missing the point. Partnerships have always been a central part of this evolution, from simple programme sponsorship idents to cross-platform deals, the emergence of the internet and the more recent opportunities in mobile, content and product placement. Likewise, revenue slowdown is nothing new. Advertising is an organic beast that sees periods of growth and periods of contraction in tandem with the economy. Our minds are always focused, whichever way revenue is heading."

And Tim Irwin, the managing director of Maxus, is also sceptical about whether we'll see revolutionary change: "Yes, traditional TV trading metrics may disappear and Ofcom will very probably decide to investigate the current trading mechanism, but the sheer sums involved and the pressure from procurement to squeeze every bit of value out of every pound spent on marketing will leave agencies in a strong place."

Chris Hayward, ZenithOptimedia's head of investment, wouldn't ever downplay the importance of value for client money but, equally, he says we shouldn't underestimate the forces at play here.

He concludes: "It may take a little while to come about. You can't put new ideas into practice overnight. But I do think that share deals will come under review, as will measures like station average price and cost per thousand, which have been around since time immemorial. I think we'll see different types of deal that will make more of multiplatform opportunities, with online and mobile and apps. The challenge will be to work with the data and research that will allow us to make the most of that."

YES: Fru Hazlitt, MD, commercial and online, ITV

"The media landscape has changed and will continue to do so as convergence becomes a reality. This means media owners need to change the way they work with clients to adapt to this new cross-platform environment."

NO: Andy Spray, head of investment, PHD

"The fact that media owners now represent multiple platforms is nothing new and exploiting this is a benefit to all. But trading will always be central to this and the best agencies will continue to find the most effective ways to deliver value to their clients."

MAYBE: Tim Irwin, managing director, Maxus

"Yes, contractors should talk to advertisers about the value of their multiplatform offerings. But the growing complexity of how to reach audiences will make agencies as important a part of this process as ever before."

YES: Chris Hayward, head of investment, ZenithOptimedia

"Yes, I think we'll see different types of deal. Cost per thousand won't disappear overnight but we'll see the evolution of metrics that are more relevant to the business performance of our clients."

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