Some of you will be reading this column at the annual conference of
the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers in London. At the
conference, you will almost certainly hear from the podium at least one
plea for the BBC to take ads.
It’s an old chestnut, resurrected on an annual basis around about the
time of Monte Carlo/Barcelona and the ISBA event, and then it goes away
The difference this time is that what’s said on the platform is linked
to ISBA’s submission to the Davies Committee as it prepares to debate
the future of the BBC in the broadcast landscape.
There is no doubt that a few very significant UK advertisers are behind
such a move, and that their spend and long-term commitment to
advertising must be accorded respect.
But is there any evidence at all that any other interested party (that
means all of us, on one level, as viewers) wishes to see ads on the
Countless surveys suggest otherwise. Agencies know that such a move
would only drag the reputation of advertising, and the people therein,
further through the mud. And any government that allows ads on the Beeb
would be taking a huge risk with the general public.
So it definitely won’t happen under Blair’s regime.
Agencies don’t want it, the public doesn’t want it, and many other
clients don’t want it - partly because clients are viewers too, and
partly because they are smart enough to know that the minute you allow
ads on the Beeb, you plunge into an even worse ratings war than exists
already. Suddenly the BBC is making Who Wants to be a Millionaire? too.
Before you know it, money moves off ITV, straight out of its programme
In truth, no-one wins. And, there is much more to this debate than what
matters to advertisers. Unlike the recent News at Ten red herring, this
genuinely is an issue of national concern. Let’s kill the idea stone
dead now before we waste much of the next year killing it slowly.