ITV might only be halfway through its five-year transformation plan, but a transformation of sorts has already taken place. The change is most obvious in its sales team. In the past, there was a sense that it believed advertisers had to spend on its products, so there was no need to try too hard. How things have changed.
Media agency executives say its "The answer is no. What is the question?" strategy of old has gone. Instead, ITV sales people ask: "What do you want to do? Let’s have a chat." The culture of ITV’s commercial division has changed and both imagined and real walls have been knocked down.
If 2011 was a year of restructure that, under Fru Hazlitt, the managing director of commerical and online, saw the arrival of executives such as Kelly Williams and Simon Daglish, 2012 was when investment in the new creative sales department really made a difference. But it is not just about new people. ITV has invested in training for all and more than 300 members of staff across 12 offices have been coached on its new creative sales technique, Triumph.
And it is paying off. ITV’s revenue from its spot ads increased by £20 million over the past 12 months in a tough market, with more than 200 brands new to TV (more than half of which were only on ITV). Moreover, in the period from July 2011 to June 2012, ITV grew those previously elusive non-spot revenues by 22 per cent year on year. ITV’s exclusive ad sales partnership with Shazam has brought in £700,000 since April and the new formats Ad Play and Save For Later have helped grow video-on-demand CPMs by 20 per cent. In addition, content partnerships delivered £1.7 million in incremental revenue and online revenues increased by 22 per cent.
But the changes have delivered more than just cash. At this year’s Campaign Media Awards, ITV was named TV Sales Team of the Year and was involved in other victorious entries from the British Heart Foundation and PHD, and Ann Summers and Goodstuff Communications. In fact, the judges were so impressed with the broadcaster during the agency categories judging that some suggested creating a new award, just for ITV. The BHF work was recognised at the Media Week Awards as well: scooping the Grand Prix, two golds and one silver. Meanwhile, the success of its new way of working was reflected by ITV’s improved showing in Campaign’s annual survey of planners and buyers. In all, ITV has started to perform like a market leader.
On-screen, the transformation has been less pronounced, but ITV remains the only place to reach mass audiences. The return of Simon Cowell to Britain’s Got Talent helped it stand up to competition from the BBC’s The Voice and bankers such as Coronation Street and I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! performed strongly.
In 2012, ITV expanded its sports coverage beyond its heartland of football – although there was a lot of that with Euro 2012 and the FA Cup. ITV "got serious" about tennis and was commended for its coverage of the French Open (its first tennis Grand Slam). It also picked the perfect year to enhance its coverage of the Tour de France. Downton Abbey was back with consistent audiences above ten million, beating – whisper it – The X Factor on many nights, and there were strong performances from new scripted shows including Mrs Biggs and A Mother’s Son. In fact, five out of the top ten dramas of 2012 came from ITV.
ITV’s relaunched news website utilised the strength of its video content and regional operation with a live news feed, and its user base increased from 600,000 to more than 3.2 million. Although ITV is not known for its investigations, the reverberations of the Jimmy Savile exposé by its investigative strand Exposure are still being felt.
Meanwhile, ITV Player and a number of apps were developed and improved – the broadcaster’s apps alone brought in £6.5 million in revenue. ITV also launched its long-awaited micropayments system.
ITV’s journey is not complete and the pressures of convergence and the cyclical advertising market will not go away. Yet for all the economic turmoil over the past few years, the TV spot market has been relatively stable. Add to that the brand-building power of its big shows, a more creative way of working and the forthcoming rebrand, and things are looking up for this year’s Medium of the Year.
The runner-up, for the second year in a row, is Google’s video platform. In 2011, Campaign celebrated YouTube for unlocking its user-generated shackles. This year, the brand has made a break for it and, in October, launched its original content initiative in the UK.
The 60 new channels include a citizen journalism offering from ITN, fashion videos from the content agency Gravity Road and Grazia, and Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube. The idea is to offer a "genuine alternative" for content producers so they don’t have to rely on broadcasters and movie studios to build a sustainable business. This is good for advertisers too: better content should improve engagement and effectiveness.
The brand’s offer to advertisers has matured in recent years. TrueView, which gives viewers the opportunity to skip ads, has increased engaged views fourfold. YouTube believes the format encourages advertisers to develop better ads people will want to watch and brands such as Superdrug have created executions specifically for it.
Amid the increasing noise about owned media, YouTube gives brands an opportunity to easily distribute their own content. Red Bull pulled off what is likely to be used as a marketing case study for many years with Felix Baumgartner’s skydive from the edge of space. The jump was watched by eight million people – the biggest number of concurrent viewers on the platform.
Ever since Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006, the internet giant has been coy about discussing figures. Analysts, however, have started to estimate that the brand is now generating serious money. As YouTube’s reach continues to grow and its content channels mature, the platform looks set to become an even more valuable asset.
As most British newspapers struggle to work out how to make money online, the Mail has gone another way. Eschewing its print tone and focus, Mail Online has its own editorial voice and audience. The brand began 2012 by hitting the 100 million unique user mark and, for much of the year, it was the biggest news site in the world.
There are many reasons why Mail Online is read by so many people. Its homepage is constantly updated in response to what is being read as well as wider trending topics. The long headlines throughout the site bring readers in via search and its "sidebar of shame" ensures they stay for more.
In 2012, Mail Online increased its revenue by 62 per cent year on year and the site’s UK brand count grew to 439 a month, up from 324 last year. UK premium revenue rose by 76 per cent year on year and partnerships worth more than £1 million were agreed with brands such as Marks & Spencer and Microsoft. All in all, a worthy third place.
Recent winners: The Guardian (2011); London Evening Standard (2010); Twitter (2009); Dave (2008); Google (2007)