PERSPECTIVE: Barcelona failed to bring clarity to the real media debate

Three days out of the office, a couple of grand out of pocket and what really did we all get out of Barcelona apart from some mildly interesting papers and a couple of nasty hangovers?

Three days out of the office, a couple of grand out of pocket and

what really did we all get out of Barcelona apart from some mildly

interesting papers and a couple of nasty hangovers?



Take the absence of some of the industry’s heavy hitters. Channel 4’s

Andy Barnes, Channel 5’s Nick Milligan and Sky’s Peter Shea all declined

to attend. The obvious reading is that ITV dominated the programme, but

in truth it took its fair share of conference airtime and no more. The

result was less debate on competitive issues and more concentration on

new media, digital TV and the changing role of the media agency. Oh, and

for the first time in a long time, ITV didn’t get a hammering - soaring

audience figures, the absence of an army of rivals and the reassuringly

sensible figure of Richard Eyre saw to that.



So you might think the delegate list would be littered with players from

the new world of television. Erm, not exactly. ONdigital, for example,

came under fire several times for failing to market itself effectively

to advertisers or agencies. The fact that there was no representative

present to defend the company served to underline the point.



Mind you, while Sky Digital and Open ... received a few name checks,

there was no real insight into the opportunities either of them afforded

the advertising industry, probably because - to paraphrase the brilliant

Mike Sommers - no bugger’s watching ’em.



The fact is that we are in something of a limbo, TV-wise. All the

stalwart papers predicting the future have dried up - the future’s here

and there’s less chance of getting away with a load of

finger-in-the-wind bollocks about take-up and penetration. We’re in the

eye of the storm and it’s actually rather quiet.



So perhaps it didn’t matter so much that there were hardly any clients

to ponder the issues in Barcelona. The usual suspects were there (Mike

Moran from Toyota, Patrick Burton from Allied Domecq, a welcome return

for Sommers) but this is the media-literate crowd. The rump of clients -

those who blindly sign up to ISBA policies or add their voices to

industry arguments - stayed away. The reality is that while TV may be a

huge chunk of an advertiser’s budget, it’s not something that

preoccupies their time.



Even ISBA itself was unusually subdued.



Yet the fundamental tenets of British broadcasting are being debated

right under our noses. The Davies committee is now considering whether

the BBC licence fee should be supplemented by advertising to 2006. It is

the most important issue on ISBA’s agenda and it could undermine the

fundamental economics of the commercial TV sector. Yet you wouldn’t know

it from Barcelona. Personally, I don’t think we will see ads on the BBC

by 2006, but it’s surely an issue that deserves more considered industry

debate than interactive advertising.



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