PERSPECTIVE: ITV’s clients would do better to revise their media plans

It sounds uncharitable, but there is a parallel between those unfortunates who take too many sleeping pills and the advertiser, Mark Horgan of United Biscuits, who is leading the call for a boycott of ITV. ’It’s a cry for help,’ we say as we come over all empathetic and give them a hug and a bunch of grapes.

It sounds uncharitable, but there is a parallel between those

unfortunates who take too many sleeping pills and the advertiser, Mark

Horgan of United Biscuits, who is leading the call for a boycott of ITV.

’It’s a cry for help,’ we say as we come over all empathetic and give

them a hug and a bunch of grapes.



The trouble is that while the boycotters have part diagnosed the root of

the problem - ITV’s fading audience performance - they’ve missed out a

vital bit and they haven’t a clue what the cure is. A day or even a

week’s boycott would only intensify the problem when everybody plays

catch-up afterwards. And that’s for those who go along with the

idea.



For the others, well, what would you do if your major competitor

announced it was coming off ITV? Why, you’d say ’we’re right behind you,

pal’ and pile into the time they have vacated. Truth be told, a boycott

is a recipe for chaos guaranteed to produce the opposite effect to that

intended. It must be significant that major players such as Procter and

Gamble and BT have, so far, stayed away from the pro-boycott lobby.



But while advertisers have every right to lambast ITV, they must look at

their own behaviour more dispassionately. Can it be any coincidence that

those advertisers most upset about ITV are those that spend least money

with Channel 4 and Channel 5? Those who spend their money with ITV

really ought to ask themselves (or their agencies) just why it is that

they are concentrating their money there. (I bet I know the answer too:

they do it under the guise of a share deal to get a bigger

discount.)



Yet without wishing to belittle the problem - at 15-20 per cent, TV

inflation puts some marketing directors at a massive disadvantage -

advertisers would be well advised to use this as an opportunity to

experiment with other media strategies as a sort of dry run for what

it’s going to be like five years down the road. Let’s be clear: if the

likes of United Biscuits think they have a problem with falling TV

audiences and inflation now, that’s nothing to what’s coming.



For too many mainstream, particularly fmcg, advertisers, I suspect, next

year’s media plan is little more than a rehash of this year’s plus a bit

(quite a bit) for inflation. But now is exactly the time they should be

experimenting with new ideas and different media, by which I don’t

necessarily mean the Internet.



Kellogg’s, for example, is using magazines in a way I have not seen

before, but it could as easily be radio or, on the other hand, the new

supermarket-linked poster format which looks, for the first time, to

offer fmcg advertisers a real reason to switch to the medium.



Unfair it may be, but the key is for advertisers to recognise that they

too are part of the inflation problem. The solution is, therefore, as

much in their own hands as it is in ITV’s.