Magazine article Marketing

WORLD CUP 2002: TV Advertising - Is the World Cup a TV Advertising Turn-Off?

Magazine article Marketing

WORLD CUP 2002: TV Advertising - Is the World Cup a TV Advertising Turn-Off?

Article excerpt

In 1998, advertisers stayed away in droves as the price of TV ad spots was deemed too expensive. Now, ITV has the recession to deal with as well. And sleepy viewers. Daniel Rogers reports.

At first glance, the World Cup looks like manna from heaven for ITV With exclusive commercial broadcasting rights, it has both the biggest TV event of the year, and access to a highly coveted audience: the young, male viewer with a high disposable income.

This text-loving, cash-rich breed is as elusive as it is attractive, for it is generally a low consumer of TV. And ITV's share of this audience has recently been going down at an alarming rate. Now, glued to the box for a whole month, they will be a sitting target for car-makers, brewers and telecoms firms.

Yet the World Cup seems to be met by advertisers with surprising indifference, bringing yet more negative publicity for beleaguered ITV.

It has already suffered from recession. The ITV Digital fiasco has also thrown doubt on the commercial viability of football. And after struggling to find a buyer, it's emerging that the broadcaster has cut the price of its bumper advertising sponsorship to pounds 3m in a last-minute deal with Travelex. Vauxhall paid pounds 4m for the privilege in 1998.

'I'm relieved, if I'm honest,' admits Graham Duff, chief executive of Granada Enterprises, which was responsible for selling the bumper breaks.

'You could see the way the sentiment over ITV Digital was filtering into negative media coverage. Ad breaks are also failing to rake in the sort of revenues as last time. The cost of a 30-second slot in England's opening game with Sweden on June 2 costs between pounds 100,000 and pounds 150,000, compared with well over pounds 500,000 for certain England games in 1998.

'Advertiser interest this time has been distinctly underwhelming,' says Martin Sambrook, global account director of advertising consultancy Media Audits. 'There's a definite lack of buzz,' agrees Andrew Canter, broadcast director of Media Planning Group. 'None of our clients are buying-in in a big way. I think those brands that don't have to be there, won't be.'

Indeed, the word on Media Street is that ITV is 'scratching around to sell ads'. After the advanced booking deadline passed on April 2, media buyers reported that ITV's sales houses were having to package deals, using the premium games to secure spots for less glamorous ones.

So why the lack of media buzz this time around? The biggest turn-off for advertisers is the games' timing. The East Asian time zone means kick-off times range from 7.30am to 1.30pm, just when we'll be munching our cornflakes or sneaking away from work to the pub at lunchtime. And, of course, pub audiences don't get ratings.

This is frustrating for Duff. 'People talk as if the World Cup takes place at 4am, which isn't true,' he says. Nevertheless, advertisers are wary about buying expensive ad breaks. 'Early morning isn't the ideal time to show a lager ad,' says a senior marketer at a major UK beer brand.

Of course, there will be highlights programmes, and given the timing, Duff believes they will have a 'disproportionate' effect. 'One of the cuter things that no one is talking about (for the two England games, which the BBC will be showing) is the fact that we have first rights to the first showing of highlights,' adds Paul Tyrell, head of PR and publicity for ITV.

But Starcom Motive research from the last World Cup reveals significantly lower audiences and vastly reduced levels of programme loyalty and programme attentiveness for highlights.

'The value of football airtime will be greatly reduced due to unmetered, less attentive out-of-home viewing, and the limited appeal of highlights packages,' says Starcom's research.

'It's going to be hard for advertisers to hit a mass audience,' adds Sambrook. 'It's a scheduler's nightmare. …

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