‘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
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.