ITV fumbles with the vision thing

The contrast could hardly be greater. In a hotel in mid-town Manhattan last week two of the world’s most powerful advertisers – responsible for £3bn a year expenditure – told top marketing and media executives to get a grip: “develop or die”. For Procter & Gamble chairman Ed Artzt the event was a reprise of last May’s apocalyptic AAAA address. There had been some progress since then, he said, but “we must control our destiny to a greater degree, regardless of what form new media may take… we simply cannot afford to lose our focus on preserving TV as the primary vehicle for ad messages”. He then reiterated P&G’s newly-enhanced commitment to programme development, which includes a joint venture with Paramount.

Philip Guarascio, charged with GM’s advertising, echoed some of his concerns. Of greater interest, however, was the scale of GM’s proposed investment in new media by way of hedging its bets.

Now switch to another conference, in another hemisphere: Monte Carlo TV95. The theme was indeed “Develop or Die”; it might just as well have been “Crisis, what Crisis?” as far as ITV representatives were concerned. Though some delegates aimed to puncture this complacency, it was to little avail. Few real questions were answered as TV executives got up, in the manner of a Politburo meeting, and made ritual incantations about the improving quality of programme “product”. It could have been a platform for ITV’s revitalised marketing strategy. Instead, TV95 was a great missed opportunity.

But there were highlights. Adrian Holmes’ blistering attack on “yobbish” ads being one of them. No one could accuse Lowe Howard-Spink’s chairman and creative guru of complacency as he launched into a “Hollywood vs America” style assault on declining moral standards in the ad community. The invective was as unusual (especially within the creative community) as it was well received. Holmes emphasised that the five ads he pilloried were only a small minority of the total BTAA submissions from which they were drawn. But the fact that they all came from well-known agencies, promoted reputable clients and had received clearance from the relevant broadcast regulators marked them out as a worrying and unacceptable trend, “like smoke creeping in under the door”. At a time when there is much cynical testing of the regulatory climate, from flagrant flyposting to flouting the ITC’s programme and advertising parameters, it takes a brave man to stand up and be counted.

But there were highlights. Adrian Holmes’ blistering attack on “yobbish” ads being one of them. No one could accuse Lowe Howard-Spink’s chairman and creative guru of complacency as he launched into a “Hollywood vs America” style assault on declining moral standards in the ad community. The invective was as unusual (especially within the creative community) as it was well received. Holmes emphasised that the five ads he pilloried were only a small minority of the total BTAA submissions from which they were drawn. But the fact that they all came from well-known agencies, promoted reputable clients and had received clearance from the relevant broadcast regulators marked them out as a worrying and unacceptable trend, “like smoke creeping in under the door”. At a time when there is much cynical testing of the regulatory climate, from flagrant flyposting to flouting the ITC’s programme and advertising parameters, it takes a brave man to stand up and be counted.

What Holmes said, page 13; Monte Carlo TV95 pages 19-24

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