MEDIA: How marketers missed open goal with TV ad slots

The World Cup fiasco has had at least one beneficial consequence - the welcome outbreak of daft ideas on the Red Tops after years of slumber.

The World Cup fiasco has had at least one beneficial consequence -

the welcome outbreak of daft ideas on the Red Tops after years of


I know that the prayer mats didn’t seem to help all that much in the end

but prayer is sometimes like that. It is still a joy to see The Sun

managing to be really silly again, as if Kelvin MacKenzie had been

kissed by a prince, woken up and immediately started barking mad

instructions just like in the old days. Without such spectacularly good

marketing wheezes it will be time to get out the prayer mats for the

tabloids themselves.

Of course, the danger is that you can go too far, just as Kelvin used to

do, and start asking if Tony Blair is the most dangerous man in


That is just too implausible because everyone knows that role has

already been filled by David Beckham. It is also not clear whether

prayer mats are equally suitable for all occasions. The Mirror catch-up

idea - the Beckham Dartboard - has undoubtedly got more social resonance

at the moment than the Wimbledon prayer mat, a device that perhaps

should be reserved for the really big occasion, such as the penalty

shoot-out against the Germans in the final of the European Championship

in two years’ time.

In the meantime, perhaps Marketing could produce its own prayer mats for

the entire marketing community to kneel on in a moment of quiet

reflection on how stupid they all were to completely underestimate the

power of football and the World Cup. It is not as if they hadn’t been


The changes in the demographics of football, the growing interest of

women, the inevitability of gigantic audiences on ITV if England did

anything more forceful than wander onto the pitch. And what do they do?

They spend all their money in April and May when there is no

international football with the result that Carlton can hardly give away

the ad slots in one of the most thrilling games there has ever been. And

they call this media planning?

As an act of solidarity I am going to rush home every evening to watch

the Discovery Channel because it had the wit to insert ads, presumably

bargain-basement ads, right in the middle of the footie.

After a suitable period of quiet reflection by those who caused media

inflation in May and deflation in June, all involved should be banned

from whingeing about the poor performance of ITV or how expensive

airtime is, at least until the start of the football season.

Then, like Vinnie Jones, they can carry out a spot of community service

- looking at the marketing opportunities presented by the massive

goodwill created by another satisfyingly honourable England failure.

It has to be spelled out clearly and, even then, the message doesn’t

always get through. Football this year is going to have an even higher

profile than last and is going to attract more interest, attention and

spectators from an increasingly upmarket audience.

Even the daftest tabloid knows that. It’s time for the marketing

community to begin scoring.

Raymond Snoddy is media editor of The Times.