Magazine article Marketing

Can These Men Save ITV?

Magazine article Marketing

Can These Men Save ITV?

Article excerpt

With ratings falling, advertising costs rising and clients demanding change, ITV's new team faces a tough task.

The news last week that Procter & Gamble supremo John Hardie had been appointed marketing and commercial director at ITV has not come a moment too soon.

The network faces falling audiences, sliding impacts, galloping airtime inflation, increasing competition, customer dissatisfaction, in-fighting among its three major shareholders and a confused identity. Whichever way you look at it, ITV is the supreme marketing challenge.

Until now, the words marketing and ITV have often appeared mutually exclusive. But with the appointment of Hardie, ITV has recognised that its brand could benefit from some of the classic techniques learnt at P&G's 'university of marketing'.

Ironically, the key problems facing ITV were voiced by another P&G man earlier this year. In March, P&G's UK managing director, Paul Polman, spoke for many advertisers when he complained ITV was failing to deliver large audiences at reasonable prices. He acknowledged that improved programming was part of the answer, but also called for extra ads to be allowed.

For many advertisers, this is still the best formula for tackling the spectre of airtime inflation. But, inevitably, the problem is also bound up with improved programming and growing audiences.

ITV will be hoping that a classically trained P&G marketer like Hardie can devise the sort of strategy which will make more viewers choose his brand in a crowded market. That means getting the proposition absolutely right and then following it up with an impeccable product which keeps audiences tuned in.

In choosing Hardie, ITV may also hope to echo the success of the Radio Advertising Bureau, which under another ex-P&G man, Doug McArthur, has championed the cause of commercial radio to such effect.

So, as Hardie sits down with new ITV chief executive Richard Eyre and programme director David Liddiment in the next few weeks, many will be hoping that the rejuvenation of ITV can start in earnest.

Eyre's arrival from the top job at Capital Radio in July was crucial to the development of a new ITV. A highly respected practitioner, with experience both on the agency and media-owner side, Eyre quickly showed he meant business by poaching David Liddiment, one of the best programmers in the business, from Granada UK Broadcasting and promising to make a real difference within 100 days.

The arrival of Hardie completed the management triumvirate. ITV is now ready to do business. Eyre says: "John comes from the university of marketing and is uniquely qualified. He has run a business and can fulfill a role which is broader than the marketing of ITV and its programmes. As part of our 100-day promise we pledged a rejuvenation of our marketing efforts."

With a reputed [pounds]40m marketing war chest at his disposal, Hardie's main task is to sell ITV to both viewers and advertisers. As with most classic marketing dilemmas, building the brand's equity should be key to solving all the other attendant problems.

ITV's troubleshooting trio is also understood to be on a bonus scheme, which means if it wins back viewing share it will be reflected in the trio's remuneration.

Many of ITV's problems stem from an unusual structure as a broadcaster and complex legislative restrictions.

ITV was set up in 1955 as a network of independent regional broadcasters. This has lead to the growth of a sprawling committee-style management, dogged by inertia and inflexibility.

Ask most industry pundits what message they would send to the new ITV marketing director and their response is unequivocal: focus, focus, focus.

Simon Rees, deputy managing director of TMD Carat, says: "ITV can't compete on all fronts. The main focus should be on the consumer. Looking at the core market and building on that is the way forward, and the advertising market will follow. …

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