TV minutage only a part of inflation fight

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Simon Mathews’ piece (MW April 24) cannot be allowed to pass without comment from the body which is at the centre of the call for additional advertising minutage on the UK’s commercial terrestrial stations.

Increased minutage is only one of the three points which the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers is pursuing to address the unwel- come return of alarmingly high levels of television media cost inflation.

The other two are requiring the BBC to stay within its remit, and actively encouraging the commercial broadcasters to produce, schedule and market more effectively. Granted, increased minutage is seen as the quickest fix of the three and only a partial one at that, but it is no substitute for the other two which must be pursued in parallel.

Crucially, there is no tangible evidence in the market that increased minutage at the level we are seeking will reduce viewing, nor diminish advertising effectiveness.

Later peaktime now routinely carries nine, ten, 11, and occasionally even the absolute maximum of 12 minutes of advertising an hour, yet those very same slots continue to command the highest audience and prices, not least from the very agencies which claim to be nervous about increased minutage.

The same slots are full of commercials from the kind of companies which track the effect of their ads meticulously and know better than to pour good money after bad.

Meanwhile, the satellite channels can and do already carry the levels of minutage permitted by the EU Broadcasting Directive. So, if it is such a bad thing, why is satellite putting on (paying) viewers, and why are advertisers deploying ever greater shares of their budgets on these channels if they and their agencies feel that the advertising effect is diminished?

This is a judgement call, and advertisers’ judgement based on the kind of empirical arguments precised above, is that it will do no harm and quite a lot of good. Does anybody out there honestly believe that most of the UK’s major advertisers would charge their trade body with such vigorous pursuit of something which would be contrary to their best interests?

While we agree with Simon that such a change requires due caution, we don’t believe we need any more conjecture, nor should we be tentative in moving this issue forward.

Indeed, we are surprised that he suggests a year-long trial when he is already aware that we propose phased increases, across which timescale the whole industry will have every opportunity to assess the effect of the changes.

This issue has been in gestation for a while, the time has now come for the industry to stop filibustering and address it squarely, as ISBA is.

Bob Wootton

Director of Media Services

Incorporated Society of British Advertisers

London

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