ITV has appointed M&C Saatchi to handle its 5m advertising push this year after a two-way pitch with Bartle Bogle Hegarty.
Media agencies are known to be chasing the media buying.
M&C’s work is intended to halt the decline in ITV’s audience share, especially young upmarket males, who are moving to Channel 4 and satellite television faster than other groups.
All TV viewing is in long-term decline but ITV, which continues to have 90 per cent-plus penetrat-ion of UK homes, is falling faster than the rest of UK television.
ITV believes that, as the market leader, its audience decline is being used by agency buyers to divert money to Channel 4 and minority channels.
“This is a major cultural change for ITV,” says a senior source involved in the pitches. “It is serious about marketing itself because for the first time declining audiences means declining revenues.
“When it was a monopoly and audiences declined, revenue actually increased because advertisers spent more to hit the same number of people. In the multichannel environment, that is no longer sustainable.”
ITV still manages to sell its airtime at a premium because its large audiences are able to deliver quick coverage, but it is known to be worried that agency moves to tighter targeting of audiences will erode that premium.
M&C will also be charged with bringing a more coherent brand image to ITV.
Because of its regional nature, viewers tend to identify the channel by its programmes, rather than as a national TV brand.