TV companies finally unveil new marketing body... it’s Thinkbox

Commercial TV bosses are ending months of speculation today by unveiling their new marketing body under the daring name Thinkbox

Backed by a relatively modest £1.5m launch budget and with a mission to "make TV more sexy", the initiative involves all the UK's major broadcasters, whose representatives admit they have been left in the wake of trade bodies working on behalf of rival sectors.

However, the TV industry has taken a bold gamble by setting out to make the organisation very different from those that have gone before it.

Whereas previous initiatives have brought the industry the likes of the RAB, the IAB and the NMA (the Radio Advertising Bureau, Interactive Advertising Bureau and Newspaper Marketing Agency), by giving the new body the name Thinkbox, TV chiefs may have avoided coming up with another acronym – but they acknowledge they are laying themselves open to the hardened cynics of the media world.

Nonetheless, they are confident Thinkbox will be well received.

"For every one person that thinks it's wank, there'll be 10 who think it's wonderful," maintained Mark White, executive director of sales at Five, who will be one of eight Thinkbox board members.

The eight broadcast sales houses have made a decision not to set up a dedicated executive to carry forward the work of Thinkbox, unlike most of the rival marketing bodies. Instead, the work will be led by a committee of rival sales bosses (pictured right), whose organisations are more used to going for each other's throats than working together.

The organisation's name alone is guaranteed to be a subject of debate in an industry that has been eagerly awaiting the response from TV bosses, who stand accused of not having listened to their customers and of being arrogant.

In another break from the past, the body is also planning to spearhead a major television spectacle at Olympia – the first time all TV bosses have hosted such an event – which will showcase the latest TV opportunities for advertisers.

Graham Duff, managing director of ITV sales and a member of the new board, claimed it would be the "most exciting and memorable TV event ever".

Among the planned initiatives is a new website carrying "a vast array" of research for advertisers, a new programme to provide advertisers with "TV training" and even a guidebook to simplify the language used in the sector.

Another board member, Mark Howe, managing director of IDS, predicted that the organisation's title would provoke criticism.

"You can just imagine what certain people's first reaction will be," he said. "But isn't that all the more reason for doing it.

"Rather than looking backwards, we're looking forwards."

"Getting the eight of us together is a phenomenal achievement. We're in a very different place to where, say, the RAB was."

Duff said the process of launching Thinkbox, which had previously been tipped to be called the Television Advertising Bureau, or TAB, had been "thrilling", adding that "some of the ideas are very exciting".

Howe noted: "We've put something together which we think is very different and very fresh.

"Some would say it's massively overdue," he added. "TV has been accused of being arrogant, or not listening to its customers, of being overcomplicated.

"Now is the right time to come together to dispel this."

"We're going to set out to make TV much more sexy and fashionable."

To that effect, the new event, Inside the Box, takes its place on the Olympia schedule alongside Erotica, the London International Horse Show and the Outdoor Adventure Show. It is to be held on 28 June for 500 invited guests.

The companies behind Thinkbox – ITV, Channel 4, Five, Sky Media, IDS, Turner, Viacom Brand Solutions and GMTV – claimed they would be working together to drive forward the TV medium amid the enormous change in viewing and technology taking place – including the move to digital and the spread of red button technology.

This would include, they said, sharing research and holding "idea generating" workshops with agency planners and buyers.

They were all adamant that they wanted to break away from the past, in which TV had the worst reputation in the industry when it comes tomarketing itself.

Dee Forbes, senior VP advertising and sales, at Turner , said the sector had been "rubbished time and time again" for not responding to the criticism.

"By coming up with a name that's not an acronym, it's a change in direction already," added Howe.

Thinkbox will not, however, unlike the RAB and the IAB, set specific targets for increasing TV's share of advertising revenue.

Instead, claimed its founders, the aim will be to drive up the quality of advertising and increase TV's return on investment as a result.

White said that, while the fierce battles for share between channels would continue, there would now be "more collaboration" between the various sales houses involved, adding that the reported rivalry between the companies had been "overblown".

Howe noted that, now the TV sector had finally come up with marketing proposals, it was harnessing previously untapped power: "We've now put the stake in the ground. Ultimately the rest should be running scared.

How TV will "work harder"

? An all-singing, all-dancing web resource will pop up at www.thinkbox.tv
? Inside the Box, a new event at Olympia being held in June, aims to sex up the sector
? TV bosses will offer training for advertisers of all levels, with the first session in April
? Representatives from agencies and marketers will be invited to thrash out the issues at once a month round tables, the first of which comes in March
? Sales chiefs will put the lid on TV gobbledygook by publishing a guide to make the language of the sector more simple

Ian Quinn

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