MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE; ITV must cultivate smaller clients or lose revenue to C5

‘It’ll be about as much trouble to us as a flea on an elephant’s arse.’ There was something strangely comforting in the way one ITV sales executive dismissed the impending Channel 5 last week. Some things never change.

‘It’ll be about as much trouble to us as a flea on an elephant’s arse.’

There was something strangely comforting in the way one ITV sales

executive dismissed the impending Channel 5 last week. Some things never

change.



Now call me picky, but surely the effect of the Channel 5 announcement

should be to galvanise the current broadcasters into fighting mode to

protect their audience and advertising base. After all, there are plenty

of clients out there who could benefit from a cuddle from ITV or they

just might rush into the arms of the new Channel 5 suitor.



I’m not really talking about the big advertisers who get invited to all

the golf days, razzmatazz dinners and back-slapping events. I’m talking

about the bubbling unders, the brands with big-boy potential who could

benefit enormously from national terrestrial TV exposure, but who just

can’t afford ITV. In other words, those brands which could help form the

core of Channel 5’s revenue.



Ironically, to appreciate the potential these brands represent for

Channel 5, we need look no further than ITV. Take, for example, the

recent deal between Laser Sales and the food company, Ross Young, whose

American Dream desserts is a nice brand with a good pedigree but not

much cash. Not enough cash to get it on to ITV, anyway.



ITV has always had special rates for test advertisers, but this goes one

step further. Because American Dream couldn’t afford a campaign on ITV,

Laser Sales (which sells airtime for Granada and LWT) handed over

airtime in return for a royalty figure based on sales of the product.

The power of ITV being what it is, sales were up and Laser will do well

out of the deal.



I’m sure the initiative will spark mutterings about shady deals and

market manipulation. After all, there are enough mutterings of such

things already to ensure that the sales houses and media buyers can’t

really come to blows over airtime trading - each side knows too much

about the other’s dealings to risk that.



But the Laser initiative should be applauded for offering a different

solution to the problem of funding TV campaigns. All parties concerned

insist that there was nothing underhand about the venture. Yes, it meant

Granada (Laser’s owner) maximising its assets by including promotional

tie-ins with some of its other companies, but there’s nothing wrong with

that. Quite the opposite if you’re Ross Young.



I’ve no idea where this payment by results sort of thing will leave TV’s

trading currency - station average price - although what already goes on

in the market makes it a superficial currency at the best of times. But

I do believe that if ITV can continue to explore such new ways of

trading with advertisers, then it will be in a much healthier position

to face the very real threat of Channel 5. Like it or not, ITV will have

to scratch that flea on its arse, because it could have a nasty bite.