There's more than one way to get ads past the BBC's ban

They say it is a columnist's prerogative to change their mind. I'll go along with that, except when it comes to advertising on the BBC, writes Dominic Mills.

I'm against it, I always have been and I know of no present circumstances in which I might change my mind (ie I reserve the columnist's right to change my mind). For their part meanwhile, those dear souls at ISBA remain equally wedded to the view that the BBC should take ads.

I'm against it for the simple reason that it would spread the jam too thin. There isn't enough TV advertising to go round the BBC and the commercial channels -- at least not enough to maintain programme budgets high enough to guarantee the quality of output that would, in turn, ensure ratings which attract advertisers. Incidentally, as TV ad revenue falls off a cliff now, I

wonder where ISBA stands today. If it was a bad idea even when times were good, it looks positively daft now.

My real point, however, is that I don't understand why ISBA's getting all het up about it anyway because, if you take a wide perspective, it's clear advertisers are already using BBC properties. It's just that they're not doing it on the BBC itself.

I saw this for myself a few days ago at breakfast. For there on the packet of

Coco Pops was a massive Walking with Beasts promotion, Beasts being the successor to the BBC's phenomenal Walking with Dinosaurs. Literally speaking, this isn't advertising on the BBC, but if you define a medium as something that allows you to package up an audience that can then be sold to advertisers, then indeed this is advertising with the BBC, not on it; moreover, it is advertising that does not significantly undermine commercial TV revenues.

In fact, I'd go further and say that this is a better deal for Kellogg than if ISBA had had its way and it had been able to buy spot advertising against the series on the BBC. Why? The price (less than £1 million); the impact it will achieve (13 million packs of cereals for a series whose first episode had an 8.5 million audience); the trailers on the BBC that create awareness of the

series; and the fit between its audience and Kellogg's. Next to Harry Potter, Walking with Beasts is going to be one of the media events of the year -- and Kellogg is smart enough to see it. The fact that it's a BBC property makes it all the more interesting.

It's also interesting that a handful of advertisers have already picked up on this idea of advertising on the BBC by proxy: Burger King linked with Walking with Dinosaurs; McDonald's has piggybacked off The Tweenies; and Kellogg and Golden Wonder have tied up with Robot Wars. Where they're ahead of the game is in the realisation that a) it's not all about spot advertising and b) a definition of advertising on the BBC includes tapping into a BBC property wherever and whenever.

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