Television tries to talk with one voice

Broadcasters are to put aside their differences to promote the value of advertising on the small screen at TV United 2003. By Amanda Wilkinson

The main UK commercial broadcasters have managed to bury their differences by agreeing to stand on the same platform to persuade advertisers of the virtues of television as a medium at TV United 2003.

The change of heart follows last year’s TV conference in Prague when some broadcasters stayed away. At the time advertisers warned that the TV industry was under pressure to prove the power of the medium in the face of initiatives from rival media such as radio and newspapers to take a greater share of national advertising budgets away from TV.

In a spirit of co-operation, TV 2003 United is being billed as a collaboration between Marketing Week Conferences, BSkyB, Carlton Sales, Five, Channel 4, Granada Enterprises, IDS, the ITV network and Viacom.

After extensive consultation with clients and the broadcasting industry, the conference schedule, which includes as speakers Dawn Airey, the new managing director of Sky Networks and Channel 4 chief executive Mark Thompson, has been overhauled and it will now focus on the effectiveness of TV as an advertising medium.

Carlton Sales chief executive Martin Bowley says: “It’s significant that all the broadcasters have come together for this conference. It’s time for everyone to reassess the power that TV has in the communications mix and start to talk tangibly to our customers as to how TV as an investment can drive their business.”

In response to advertiser conce

rns about spending time out of the office, this year’s event will take place in one day on April 30 at The Assembly Rooms in Bath. It will end with a dinner in the evening hosted by the broadcast industry at the Roman Baths in the Pump Rooms.

To open the conference a panel of speakers – including Airey, Thompson, Five acting chief executive Nick Milligan, UKTV chief executive Dick Emery and Phil Horton, marketing director of BMW – will talk about the issues facing the industry and the manner in which they should be tackled.

Among them will be Malcolm Earnshaw director-general of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers. He will reiterate the need to defend the freedom to advertise in the face of pressure from groups campaigning for restrictions in relation to advertising to children, and of food and alcohol.

Other issues that he will refer to include the extent of Ofcom’s role under the Communications Bill, the development of a model for the self-regulation of broadcast advertising that will meet with Ofcom’s approval, an increasingly commercial BBC and the proposed merger of Carlton Communications and Granada.

Earnshaw adds: “We are vehemently opposed to one ITV sales house and are concerned about the possible knock-on effect of Five and Channel 4 and other players merging into a single sales house.”

Oliver Cleaver, European media director at Kimberly-Clark, believes the forthcoming year will be critical for TV and that a day-long event does not do justice to all the issues that need to be discussed. In addition to a single ITV, the other issues that he believes should be addressed include the development of Freeview, anticipated changes by Airey at BSkyB and their knock-on effect on the multi-channel world, the future chief executive of Five and the sustainability of its growth, whether Channel 4 needs to be revitalised, and the effects of a slowdown in consumer spending on advertisers and a possible war in Iraq.

The rest of the morning will be devoted to the effectiveness of TV.

BSkyB sales director Peter Shea says: “Television is the most powerful medium ever invented. We need to remind each other of this.”

Paul Curtis managing director of Viacom Brand Solutions agrees: “Over the past couple of years clients have moved out of TV to varying degrees, but some time after the first year of doing so they tend to see a decline in brand awareness.”

Professor Geoffrey Beattie, head of the Psychology department at the University of Manchester, will present the latest strand of his research measuring the influence of TV on consumers compared with other media. This will be followed by a presentation of research specially commissioned for the conference on the cost-effectiveness of TV in a multi-channel world.

Unilever head of worldwide media Alan Rutherford will give the advertiser’s perspective on TV with a marketing plan showing the return on investment that the medium offers. Vodafone head of advertising Guy Phillipson will then explain why the telecoms network uses TV and talk about its involvement in interactive advertising.

The topic on everyone’s lips last year was media neutrality and Louise Jones, communications strategist at PHD Media, will attempt to define TV’s position in a media-neutral planning environment. Moving outside the media agency environment, Trevor Beattie, chairman and creative director at TBWA ,will interpret the value of TV from a creative’s perspective. There will also be a session on new programme formats.

The conference ends with TV Fights Back, a panel discussion featuring broadcasters including Channel 4 sales director Andy Barnes, Shea, Bowley, Granada Enterprise chief executive Graham Duff, ITV marketing and commercial director Jim Hytner, IDS managing director Mark Howe and Curtis.

For media owners, TV buyers and advertisers alike, the issues that are likely to rear their head at this session include consolidation, the need for changes to TV trading mechanisms and the true nature of TV agency deals.

Delegates will also have the opportunity to join discussion groups on key topics before dinner. Direct Line group marketing director Jim Wallace will lead a session on Direct Response TV, Toyota commercial director Mike Moran will talk about sponsorship, COI chief executive Alan Bishop and Dixons group marketing services director Elizabeth Fagan will talk about interactive TV, Masterfoods European media manager Angus McIntosh will discuss advertiser-funded programming and Procter & Gamble head of UK media Bernard Balderston will look at digital TV.

It promises to be a thought-provoking day.

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