Magazine article Marketing

BBC Unit Must Tread Fine Line on Promotions

Magazine article Marketing

BBC Unit Must Tread Fine Line on Promotions

Article excerpt

While the debate rages about how the BBC will be funded in the future, its marketing activities continue to upset its commercial rivals

The BBC's old guard must be turning in their graves at the very idea of having to market Auntie. In the comfortable old days of monopoly and later duopoly with ITV, such a discipline simply wasn't called for.

That is why last week's changes, which put marketing at the very heart of the BBC's public services, are the most radical in its history.

The shake-up sees the launch of a department called Public Service Marketing to streamline marketing for the corporation's publicly funded activities.

Sue Farr, currently marketing and communications director at BBC Broadcast, will head the division as director of public service marketing (see Marketing, last week).

Farr will have a multimillion pound war chest and some 200 staff. Her remit will be to devise high-profile campaigns, along the lines of Perfect Day, to promote BBC broadcast, production, online and news. These were previously commissioned by the BBC's corporate marketing department, headed by Jane Frost. Promotion of the licence fee is by the corporate finance department.

The marketing changes were announced just days before the funding panel reported (see above). The launch of Public Service Marketing has opened up a fresh debate about how the BBC promotes itself with public money.

Most observers agree that there should be a clearer line between the marketing of the BBC's public service and its commercial activities.

According to research by a major advertiser, which wished to remain anonymous, the BBC runs two to three minutes an hour of promotions on its airwaves. What irks the commercial sector is that this activity is not logged or audited and no one else has access to the BBC's airtime.

When Perfect Day first appeared two years ago it was broadcast at 5pm on BBC1.The same spot would have cost [pounds]124,000 on ITV and [pounds]50,837 on Channel 4.

The magazine giant IPC has monitored the BBC's promotion of its own magazines. According to Hugo Martin, head of broadcast promotions, at IPC TX that figure came to [pounds]18m. And, as Martin as points out, the Radio Times benefits not only from free airtime, but from an uncluttered environment.

Radio chiefs are also angry about the BBC's cross promotions.

Free promotions

David Mansfield, chief executive of Capital Radio, says: "It's nothing short of disgraceful. …

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