Media: A Moment with Marquis

Clare Salmon has started her new job as the marketing director of ITV fresh from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

She must have a good head for heights on both counts: ITV's Gray's Inn Road headquarters boasts an atrium whose vertiginous drops make a wimp like me an extremely reluctant visitor. She will need a cool head too for the task facing her. ITV, for all its familiarity, has only recently become a single entity, having slimmed down from 15 regional companies to three large ones, then to the twin giants of Granada and Carlton and finally to ITV plc.

The advertising and marketing community watched its creation in resigned mood, annoyed but hardly surprised that the merger was waved through with so little fuss.

The viewer, meanwhile, was for decades faintly puzzled by the barrage of corporate logos that was the on-screen persona of channel three. All that has changed, and credit is due to Jim Hytner, Salmon's predecessor.

But the job of creating a truly consistent and integrated ITV remains and this is Salmon's priority.

Straightforward enough, you might say, except that a major, round-the-clock broadcaster is not easily packaged, promoted and positioned. It is a hypermarket rather than a product line, a stream of varied, one-off offerings that defy the normal disciplines of brand marketing, let alone the data-driven, ROI-based activity that was the hallmark of Salmon's previous role at the AA.

Is it even possible to fashion a brand out of ITV? As with all brands, the true measure of success will be in the minds and hearts of consumers, so Salmon must ensure above all that the spirit of ITV is distinctive and coherent in all its guises. It will be a satisfying achievement if she brings it off in this, ITV's 50th anniversary year.

Did anyone ever come close to capturing the essence of ITV? Yes, but you must go back about 20 years to Ron Miller's time as the head of the ITV marketing committee. Ron gave the channel's public face pizzazz, confidence, star-spangled entertainment and fun. He used big, brash outdoor campaigns and so started a trend that big TV channels, including the BBC, have followed. Salmon will enjoy sifting through the advertising archives and doubtless heed their lessons, but the ITV brand of 2005 must stand proud in a very different multichannel context and Channel 4 and five, Sky and the BBC are arguably all further down the rock-solid branding route than is ITV. A Kilimanjaro-sized challenge if ever there was one.