Alasdair Reid investigates why car-makers are keen to sign deals with
The London TV market used to be dead easy. The London weekday franchise
has always been a natural home for baked beans and detergent ads, while
LWT mops up in financial services, lager and cars - all that stuff
targeted at those hard-to-reach men. Men watch more at the weekend while
the Carlton inventory is awash with the housewives delivered by daytime
schedules, mini-series, game shows and Coronation Street.
Well, that’s the tradition. So what are all the car manufacturers doing
flocking to Carlton these days?
Last week, Mediapolis, the media buyer for Peugeot and Citroen,
committed its 1997 budgets to the weekday station. The Mediapolis money
joins budget commitments from Ford and Vauxhall. But some observers say
it’s just not possible for Carlton to meet the requirements of all these
What’s going on? Is this an accident waiting to happen?
The theory in some quarters is that Carlton has been ‘buying in’ car
business because it is playing ‘chicken’ with its traditional fmcg
advertisers, which have been demanding too much discount. But a rival
sales house estimates that, because LWT has a natural price advantage
when it comes to this target market, Carlton has had to offer a whopping
25 discount points against its station price for ABC1 men in order to
pull in the Peugeot and Citroen business.
Another rumour doing the rounds states that Carlton is about to lose a
big piece of car business and is seeking to plug the gap before it
appears. An early favourite for defection was Ford. The speculation was
that Ford wanted a lot of activity geared around the Grand Prix coverage
- which is, of course, on LWT. The problem with this theory is that Ford
has a relationship with both London contractors and has access to more
than enough weekend airtime.
‘Carlton will continue to have the majority of Ford’s London spend next
year,’ Alan James, the head of TV buying at Ford’s media specialist, the
Network, reveals. ‘I don’t really know what the fuss is about, quite
honestly. The thing that people forget is that Carlton was undertraded
in the car sector for 1996 and LWT was overtraded. There was a natural
process of rebalancing that was due to take place. I do think that there
are surprises yet to come in terms of people switching allegiance. Not
Vauxhall also says it’s sticking where it is. Volkswagen? BMW? Fiat?
Steve Platt, Carlton’s director of sales, maintains that no-one should
have cause to worry: ‘Our track record of delivering deals in any
category is beyond question. We only make deals if we are confident that
we can deliver them.
‘I can’t imagine where this speculation is coming from - but whoever is
responsible for it should concentrate on their own business and let us
get on with looking after ours.’
Others are less optimistic. One senior media auditor hoped that all of
this brinkmanship and horsetrading - in which client needs sometimes
take second place to agency deals - would soon be a thing of the past.
‘If you’re sitting in the marketing department at a car manufacturer at
the moment, it must all look very scary,’ he reckons. ‘We have told our
clients to go along with the agency deals that their agencies are doing.
But in 1998 it will be a very different TV market indeed. Getting into
the right programming will be the main issue by then - and it won’t just
be about ITV. A combination of Channel 5 and Sky could be a potent mix -
especially in the car sector.’
Martin Bowley, Carlton UK Sales’ managing director, is delighted by the
idea of car advertisers chasing quality programming. ‘That’s why clients
will be using ITV in 1998,’ he insists.