Advertisers plead for patience with ITV team

Advertisers and agencies are urging ITV to keep faith with its existing sales and programming chiefs under a new chief executive, despite its poor performance this year.

Procter & Gamble associate director of media Bernard Balderston says that ITV “does not need another change of direction”, while media buyers say they believe that the broadcaster is turning a corner.

There are growing concerns in the industry that a new chief executive or a new owner might bring in new teams that would destabilise an ITV that is “starting to get its act together”.

The surprise statement of faith comes as the broadcaster is embroiled in a high profile battle between BSkyB and NTL. Last week Sky spent £940m on a 17.9% “silent” stake, while the ITV board turned down a £5bn offer from NTL this week.

Balderston says that the top tier of management, including commercial director Ian McCulloch and director of television Simon Shaps should be kept in place.

He adds: “I have seen what ITV has got on the table for next year and it is much more positive and much more encouraging [than previously],” he says. “Clearly that is the product of current management and it would be good to see them being given longer to go forward.”

Meanwhile, Walker Media broadcast director John Horrocks says that ITV is at its lowest ebb but there encouraging signs. Carat head of planning and integration Steve Hobbs adds that its focus has changed.

Hobbs says: “It is the first time that I can remember the sales team appearing to work properly together with the programming people. There is a chemistry between the two sets which hasn’t been there in the past.”

Shaps and his team have accompanied sales director Gary Digby during recent agency visits.

Analysis, page 13

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