Analysis: Is ITV’s future rosier with Crozier?

Marketers’ initial reaction to the appointment of Adam Crozier as chief executive for ITV after a tortuous public recruitment process was a sigh of relief that at last stability seems within reach for the broadcaster’s management team.

Adam Crozier

With Archie Norman now in place as chairman and Crozier soon to take up his role, the marketing industry is united in hoping for a strong ITV to forge forward, delivering both big ratings hits and innovative, targeted digital and online properties that brand owners can exploit.

But with the dust settling there is now the inevitable question of whether Crozier is suited to the role and whether he has the talents to transform a traditional media company into a true 21st century multiplatform entity.

His “to-do” list is lengthy and includes tackling the CRR trading mechanism and the decision of the Competition Commission not to roll it back; BSkyB’s imminent offloading of most if not all of its 17.9% stake in ITV and, a bugbear for marketers, some hidebound commercial business practices. As Bob Wootton, director of media and advertising at ISBA delicately puts it ; “Anyone who deals with ITV will have encountered some legacy issues that they will not have found a great experience.”

Critics in the marketing world have not been backward in taking issue with the appointment, pointing out that Crozier has little digital experience, is known as a cost-cutter and, perhaps most damningly, has left his last two roles, at the FA and the Royal Mail, with the job “half done.”

As one former ITV marketer says: “It will be interesting to see if he stays in the job long enough to do anything. TV takes time, it’s not something you can turn around in a hurry, whether you are talking about the content or commercial side.

“Everywhere Crozier has been he has started the process of structural change but not finished it.”

However, both Wootton and Ian Armstong, customer marketing manager at Honda UK, argue that that modern businesses in many sectors operate in this way with chief executives often brought in “for a specific task” to provide the initial impetus and energy and then hand over the reins. Crozier actually did work at Royal Mail for seven years.

There is also the hope, expressed by Armstrong and others, that Crozier’s advertising agency background from his time as joint CEO at Saatchi & Saatchi will help in understanding what clients want in terms of content and trading terms.

Other advocates of Crozier include Simon Carter, who worked with Crozier while at the Post Office and is now marketing director, UK Government at Fujitsu. He says: “I was always impressed with his focus on what really mattered, and even on issues which he had little experience, for example, the launch of Post Office HomePhone, he always asked the right questions, and was fully supportive with what we were seeking to do. It was also impressive to see him working in tandem with an equally high profile leader in Allan Leighton.”

This observation does raise the question over whether Norman and Crozier are too much kindred spirits with a similar political and social background and, in a broad sense, business experience, to create the kind of dynamic tension that makes for a successful partnership.

They are linked via Crozier’s boss at the Royal Mail, Allan Leighton, who worked with Norman at Mars, McKinsey and Asda. As far back as 1999 Crozier was lauding Norman’s triumphs as chairman of Asda in the press.

Marketers make no bones about what they expect from a renewed ITV – good content and the ability for clients to exploit that content across multiple channels and platforms. Matt Close VP marketing (Home and Personal Care) at Unilever UK & Ireland, says: “We would hope that Crozier’s focus is on brilliant content and all that that means for ITV. Its strength as a mainstream broadcaster is in bringing as many viewers to its programmes as possible.”

Armstrong adds: “With good content comes audiences. We need a good, stable schedule with some understanding of audiences and predictability. To be fair we have to give the team some head space to take stock. It would be prudent to bed down before tackling the whole infrastructure of ITV.”

Close gives qualified approval to the appointment with an acknowledgment that Crozier has a track record with big organisations but adds: “The risk with the appointment is that that he is seen as a restructuring guy but you cannot restructure your way to growth.”

There are client-specific problems at ITV and Wootton identifies a disconnect between the trading of the traditional spot advertising properties and the new products and services the broadcaster is developing and offering clients. He says the new management team is “thin on new media channels” and there is a lot of work to do on integration and monetisation across ITV’s portfolio.

Wootton boils down his assessment of ITV’s new CE to a simple litmus test. “Is the man going to engage with ISBA members, the people who make ITV possible?”



    Leave a comment