They say it is a columnist's prerogative to change their mind. I'll
go along with that, except when it comes to advertising on the BBC. I'm
against it, I always have been and I know of no present circumstances in
which I might change my mind (ie. I reserve the columnist's right to
change my mind). For their part meanwhile, those dear souls at ISBA
remain equally wedded to the view that the BBC should take ads.
I'm against it for the simple reason that it would spread the jam too
thin. There isn't enough TV advertising to go round the BBC and the
commercial channels - at least not enough to maintain programme budgets
high enough to guarantee the quality of output that would, in turn,
ensure ratings which attract advertisers. Incidentally, as TV ad revenue
falls off a cliff now, I wonder where ISBA stands today. If it was a bad
idea even when times were good, it looks positively daft now.
My real point, however, is that I don't understand why ISBA's getting
all het up about it anyway because, if you take a wide perspective, it's
clear advertisers are already using BBC properties. It's just that
they're not doing it on the BBC itself.
I saw this for myself a few days ago at breakfast. For there on the
packet of Coco Pops was a massive Walking with Beasts promotion, Beasts
being the successor to the BBC's phenomenal Walking with Dinosaurs.
Literally speaking, this isn't advertising on the BBC, but if you define
a medium as something that allows you to package up an audience that can
then be sold to advertisers, then indeed this is advertising with the
BBC, not on it; moreover, it is advertising that does not significantly
undermine commercial TV revenues.
In fact, I'd go further and say that this is a better deal for Kellogg
than if ISBA had had its way and it had been able to buy spot
advertising against the series on the BBC. Why?
The price (less than £1 million); the impact it will achieve (13
million packs of cereals for a series whose first episode had an 8.5
million audience); the trailers on the BBC that create awareness of the
series; and the fit between its audience and Kellogg's. Next to Harry
Potter, Walking with Beasts is going to be one of the media events of
the year - and Kellogg is smart enough to see it. The fact that it's a
BBC property makes it all the more interesting.
It's also interesting that a handful of advertisers have already picked
up on this idea of advertising on the BBC by proxy: Burger King linked
with Walking with Dinosaurs; McDonald's has piggybacked off The
Tweenies; and Kellogg and Golden Wonder have tied up with Robot Wars.
Where they're ahead of the game is in the realisation that a) it's not
all about spot advertising and b) a definition of advertising on the BBC
includes tapping into a BBC property wherever and whenever.
- Claire Beale is on maternity leave.