MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: ISBA and ITV must realise a sensible debate is required

You know it’s autumn when the leaves fall from the trees, you need more than a dab of Chanel No. 5 to keep you warm under the duvet and ITV and its advertisers stop pretending this is a sophisticated and professional business and start calling each other names.

You know it’s autumn when the leaves fall from the trees, you need

more than a dab of Chanel No. 5 to keep you warm under the duvet and ITV

and its advertisers stop pretending this is a sophisticated and

professional business and start calling each other names.



Yes, it’s negotiation time again and what fun it is for the casual

observer. Time to put away the golf clubs, dig out the knuckle dusters

and make a big fat bonus. And hit the headlines with another unseemly

spat.



Last year it was share of broadcast deals that got the industry hot

under its Armani collar, when ITV companies pushed for a guaranteed

share of total TV spend. This time, advertisers are throwing the grenade

back and calling for similar performance guarantees from the

broadcasters themselves.



Fair’s fair, now.



Advertisers want their agencies to couple share of expenditure with

broadcasters’ audience performance against relevant target demographics.

Since, in simple terms, ITV makes more money when its audiences fall,

this sounds like a great initiative, particularly when ITV is struggling

to meet its own audience targets.



But, as anyone familiar with ITV will know, this hasn’t gone down very

well. The problem is, it puts a squeeze on ITV - which has rightly

enjoyed a share of revenue above its share of commercial audiences -

and, more importantly to some, it would pose a threat to the size of

sales bonuses.



So last week ITV hit back, claiming that ISBA is being inconsistent. Do

advertisers want ITV to grow the commercial cake by fighting the BBC -

as they implied last year - or beat up rival commercial broadcasters in

a scramble for share of commercial impacts, as this latest salvo could

be interpreted?



There are a number of serious underlying issues beneath the fisticuffs,

issues that demand industry debate, most crucially between the

protagonists themselves.



But, as usual, such debates are handled in a manner which would do any

five-year-old in a playground yo-yo competition proud.



The really disgraceful thing about such spats is the sneering way in

which advertiser concerns are routinely dismissed. ISBA isn’t always

open and upfront with the TV community, nor is it as close to the TV

market as those who buy and sell airtime for a living. In fact, some of

its suggestions are downright unworkable and, sometimes, faintly

ridiculous, given the realities of the market. But whatever else it may

be, ISBA represents clients without whose money many buyers and sellers

wouldn’t be in business.



Of the clients I speak to, not all may be enamoured by ISBA but many

trust it more than the arrogant profiteers they consider the big

broadcasters to be. ITV and ISBA need each other and while agreement may

be impossible, is it really too late for sensible debate?



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