Thinkbox: A year of unfulfilled promises

It is a year since television marketing body Thinkbox launched amid a fanfare of promises to promote the medium as a whole to advertisers, at a time when some were questioning its ability to deliver in a fragmented media landscape.

While industry observers believed the body was long overdue, many wondered if the eight commercial TV companies could work together, even though branding consultancy The Ingram Partnership (now Ingram) was appointed as its virtual administrator. Observers felt Thinkbox should have been set up as a legal entity, with a structure like the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

A first burst of activity boosted awareness of the body, culminating in a well-received event, Thinkbox Experience, last summer. But since then, media buyers and clients have criticised the body for losing its head of steam. One broadcast executive says: “Since the summer there has been a dearth of communication from Thinkbox. It has lost momentum when it should have been building on early successes.”

The focus has been on the revolving door that has seen board members Mark Howe, Mark Wood and, most recently, Justin Sampson quit after leaving their respective employers ids, Sky Media and ITV. Ingram’s Elizabeth Kesses, marketing director of Thinkbox, states: “The turnover has shown it to be stronger than the people who come and go.”

Yet so many changes can break an organisation’s backbone. A broadcast insider says: “Thinkbox has lost its way.”

MindShare broadcast buying director Andy Zonfrilllo believes the body must do more. He says: “A year on and it is not high profile enough.”

In November, Thinkbox announced it was to search for a chief executive. Names in the frame include former Clear Channel UK chief executive Stevie Spring and Wood. Despite an estimated salary of &£150,000-plus, at least one potential candidate says the marketing budget, currently at &£3m, is not big enough.

New chairman and Channel 4 sales director Andy Barnes is leading the search, assisted by headhunters. Kesses says recruitment consultants are scouring the industry and beyond. “Having someone outside TV will bring consumer understanding,” she asserts. Kesses disagrees with the notion of lost momentum. Focus has been on “grassroots initiatives” targeting clients and planners. Initiatives will be announced “within months” to change current perceptions, she adds.

Procter & Gamble associate director of UK media Bernard Balderston believes change is needed. He observes: “Thinkbox made a good start so I’m surprised it hasn’t pushed on.” Ultimately, he believes, it will be impossible for the body to be run “part time” by sales directors already holding full-time jobs. He says Thinkbox should look to other media bureaux, such as the RAB, for inspiration.

RAB and IAB have done consistently good jobs at providing people with information, says Kesses. She counters Thinkbox could and should be different: “Where Thinkbox can have the edge is in the area of inspiration.”

Barnes says lessons have been learned and all eyes must be on the future. “We are committed to showing that television is a fantastic medium that can deliver massively in many different ways,” he says. “Critics should watch this space.”

With a chief executive to appoint, and doubters to prove wrong, all eyes will indeed be scrutinising Thinkbox.

Catherine Turner

Latest from Marketing Week

Marketoonist on PowerPoint pitches

The Marketoonist

Tom Fishburne is founder of Marketoon Studios. Follow his work at marketoonist.com or on Twitter @tomfishburne See more of the Marketoonist here Tom Fishburne will be speaking at the Festival of Marketing, which is taking place on 4 and 5 October at Tobacco Dock. To find out more information, including how to book tickets, visit […]

PLEASE SIGN IN OR REGISTER. IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and inspiration that will help you develop as a marketer and leader.

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

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work, so we can make Marketing Week more relevant to you.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team and columnists will ask the biggest questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

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 will be your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

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

Dedicated to developing your skills and helping you achieve marketing excellence. Find guidance on leadership, professional development and the latest industry jobs.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email subscriptions@marketingweek.com

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