Just when you thought it was safe to assume relations between the
Incorporated Society of British Advertisers and ITV were at their most
tense, things go and get worse. Afraid as I am of becoming an inflation
bore, when you get headlines in Campaign like ’ITV threatens legal
action against ISBA’ you know things are getting spicy. What’s inflamed
the situation is a letter ISBA sent to clients trying to rally support
for its broadcast policy, including more ad minutage on ITV and ads on
Advertisers are being asked to sign a petition which will then be sent
to the Government, dropping some none-too-subtle hints about moving
money into other EU markets if UK TV inflation doesn’t come down, and
pointing out their role in keeping the UK economy afloat. ISBA is even
offering PR for those clients who move their money off ITV into other
media. Is that an ITV share price I hear falling?
Is ISBA just doing its job? Well, no-one, including ITV, would dispute
that advertisers have a case when it comes to TV inflation. Costs are
set to rise again dramatically, though ironically much of the next wave
of inflation will be demand-driven.
But put yourself, for a moment, in Richard Eyre’s position. As ITV’s
chief executive, Eyre is trying to galvanise a set of suspicious ITV
shareholders behind the Network Centre’s new spirit of appeasement. Then
along comes a heavy-handed ISBA stomping on a delicate political
Nobody would claim that ITV is a tender, vulnerable soul which needs
special love and attention. It’s a huge, very successful, very lucrative
machine which hasn’t been doing its job as well as it ought in recent
years. Hardly a candidate for mass sympathy.
But there’s one thing most people seem to be agreed on - that the new
ITV Network Centre team are trying. Yes, they won’t budge on minutage,
but more minutage can only come in daytime, because peaktime already
carries the maximum nine minutes per hour.
And who advertises during daytime? A number of big fmcg advertisers who
also happen to be some of the most vocal members of ISBA, with their own
media executives pursuing their own professional agendas.
How many advertisers really understand the issues in ISBA’s letter and
know the alternative ITV view? And how many could really switch their
advertising spend out of the UK in protest at TV inflation? Whichever
way you look at it, the answer seems to be that a handful of top clients
are running the show.
ITV must get a dialogue back on track with ISBA; there are too many
areas of regulation and government policy where they share common views
for co-operation to cease. But ITV also has to get off its backside and
talk to clients directly if its voice is to be heard by the rump of the
advertising community. ISBA certainly isn’t listening