Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Doing Her Public Duty - Polly Cochrane, Marketing Director, Channel 4

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Doing Her Public Duty - Polly Cochrane, Marketing Director, Channel 4

Article excerpt

Mixed messages emanated from Channel 4 last week, with its declaration that its financial position is at a 'tipping point' coming at the same time as its annual report revealed that chief executive Andy Duncan had become Britain's best-paid civil servant with a salary of pounds 1.2m.

For marketing director Polly Cochrane, convincing the public of the former and that it is worthy of state funding is pivotal to the broadcaster's future.

Cochrane, a feisty 44-year-old, first walked through the revolving doors at Horseferry Road 10 years ago, but, unlike many of her former colleagues, has never found her way out. If ever there was an antithesis to the received wisdom that the average tenure of a marketing director is 18 months, she provides it.

During this time she has witnessed many of the highs and lows that the broadcaster has endured, from the cost-cutting of former chief executive Mark Thompson to the assorted moral panics and rows that followed some of its edgier programming, from Queer as Folk to the Big Brother racism row and last year's premium-rate phone lines scandal.

Cochrane now faces one of the biggest challenges of her career, however: to ensure that C4 is best-known for distinctive public-service programming rather than populist and proven lowbrow ratings-winners. This could be tough, although there is already evidence onscreen that C4 is shifting its focus away from its US imports and Big Brother, which received no marketing support last year, and onto more worthy content such as its Big Food Fight strand.

Cochrane refuses to reveal which strands will be the focus of the rest of the year's marketing, but admits that when she sits down with the commissioning teams to select eight big pieces to receive most of its marketing support, they start with the ones they hope will define the channel. 'The first part is to work out what is new, exciting and distinctive, either as public-service broadcasting or what will be big in the schedule.' She is also quick to defend C4's record, pointing to its support for programming focusing on child literacy and street crime.

Given C4's finances - it recorded a pre-tax surplus of pounds 1.6m last year against a surplus of pounds 21.3m in 2006 in what chief executive Andy Duncan admitted was a deliberate strategy to break even - and the precarious state of the TV ad market, one might think the marketing budget would be one of the first to be cut, but C4 views marketing as an investment. …

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