ISBA is dusting off its proposals for the BBC to carry advertising.

ISBA is dusting off its proposals for the BBC to carry


The idea that government ads should be transferred to the BBC as a first

step has been discussed. Some members, most notably the influential fmcg

companies on ISBA’s media strategy group, are enthusiastic.

Are government ads on the Beeb a Trojan horse allowing commercial

advertisers to follow? Could the idea be made to work effectively and

what do other parts of the industry think? Among the COI agencies there

is little enthusiasm and our media buying shops think the proposal does

not address the issues facing advertisers.

Moving government advertising on to the BBC would not achieve the

objective of freeing up commercial airtime. Total COI spend on ITV and

Channels 4 and 5 represented only 0.8 per cent of all commercial

minutage in 1998 - a drop in the ocean by anyone’s standards.

The solution to the problem lies in increasing the commercial minutage

allowed per hour.

There is also the question of potential savings, which could be used to

benefit the licence-holder. It must be assumed that the BBC would levy a

charge for airtime to compensate for the loss of promotional

opportunities, and if it did so then savings would be negated.

With the cost of a copy clearance system, administration of a ratecard

and the production facilities required to accept copy from just one

advertiser, the numbers just do not add up.

Moreover, the ISBA plans would lessen the effectiveness of government

communication. At the moment, the public sector competes with commercial

messages and does so successfully. If government advertisers ceased to

be part of the competitive marketplace, it would not be long before

creative skills became blunted. Worse still, viewers would soon begin to

see our messages as occupying an information ghetto.

Spending taxpayers’ money, as we do, it is imperative that we should

secure effective advertising. The targeting of specific audiences, and

the optimum schedule construction that delivers that targeting, is

crucial to a campaign’s effectiveness. It is unrealistic to assume the

BBC would give us free rein to pick and choose the dayparts and

programmes in which we would like to appear.

Would government advertising be allowed to appear in programmes at all?

Centre-breaks have a proven advantage in terms of higher attention

scores, but it is difficult to imagine the BBC taking kindly to

interrupting a flagship programme to air a government commercial.

Would the COI be able to run long time lengths and take advantage of

short-term tactical opportunities? How could top ’n’ tail work without

other commercials in the break? Would there be only one message per

break or would we face the prospect of back-to-back government ads?

We firmly believe that placing government advertisements on the BBC

would be an ineffective and convoluted way of addressing TV inflation

and would damage advertisement effectiveness. That’s not a proper use of

taxpayers’ money.

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