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
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
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
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
There are a number of serious underlying issues beneath the fisticuffs,
issues that demand industry debate, most crucially between the
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?