Ads can cut through in our clutter-free junctions

TV United was a surprisingly harmonious affair, and progress was made in showing advertisers that the medium remains strong and vital, says Jim Hytner

Firework. Instructions for use: put Channel 4’s Andy Barnes, Carlton Sales’ Martin Bowley, BSkyB’s Mark Chippendale, Viacom’s Paul Curtis, Granada Enterprises’ Graham Duff, IDS’s Mark Howe, Five’s Nick Milligan and ITV Networks’ Jim Hytner in the same room, light the paper (on which the agenda for a TV United conference sits), stand back and watch the sparks fly.

Well, it wasn’t quite like that. A shame, really. The UK’s commercial broadcasters were at pains to unite behind a single objective: to boost our medium’s appeal to advertisers and agencies alike.

Television is the most powerful communication tool on Earth, but as a group we haven’t sold it, or evangelised about it enough. There are historical reasons for that, but the TV United conference in Bath last week was the start of a new process. Inevitably, you’ll read more about the issues that were raised than the progress made, but talking to senior executives such as Elizabeth Fagan of Dixons, Guy Phillipson of Vodafone or Chris Hayward of Zenith Optimedia, it seems we at least made a small dent in the mantra: “Radio Advertising Bureau, good: TV, bad!”

We need to keep going.

PHD Media brand planning director Louise Jones gave an excellent speech on many issues, including the continuing problem of clutter. Whether reducing the number of spots in a junction (commercial break – except when it’s the BBC) is a viable option is a matter for the sales teams, but I’d like to address other areas within the junction. Jones is rightly concerned that a minority of viewers like to surf as a programme ends. That’s why commercial broadcasters have introduced end-credit promotions. On ITV1, for instance, we navigate viewers through peak-time, with a “Next, Then, Later” menu as the credits roll. We have seen a much greater retention of viewers through an evening. Our qualitative research has also shown that viewers appreciate the navigation and don’t regard it as an intrusion. It’s a new tool, so it could be seen as additional clutter, but it’s not: it’s a viewer-friendly, and therefore advertiser-friendly, mini-EPG.

Idents have also been lumped into the clutter debate. They’ve been there since the very beginning of TV, so maybe the fuss is because they are so much better now! Five has relaunched with some interesting idents, Channel 4 is about to introduce some new work and ITV1 has used its stars “on set, off duty”. Even the BBC balloon was fantastic and could have been evolved beautifully, though the redand white-suited dancers are pretty soulless.

Branded break-bumpers and branded break flashes have also been introduced across most commercial channels, not increasing clutter at all but making the junctions a classier, cleaner environment. The BBC may now regard junctions as an opportunity to push one of its umpteen services, but I can assure you the commercial broadcasters continually strive to make them a showcase, a place in which our customers are proud to advertise.

Jim Hytner is ITV Networks marketing and commercial director

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here