Media must learn to show marketers the respect they deserve

The atmosphere at this year's Media Guardian Edinburgh TV Festival was altogether more upbeat than in 2007, despite the hideous cyclical economic climate.

Peter Fincham's uplifting MacTaggart lecture restated the cultural importance of entertainment, particularly in TV. Compared to last year, the sessions about new technologies, on-demand TV, trust and standards were positive and confident.

Unfortunately, one perennial session didn't seem to have moved on much - not just from last year but from 10 years ago - and that was the one about marketing media brands.

The three marketing gurus on the panel - Polly Cochrane from Channel 4, Helen Kellie from the BBC and Tom Lucas from UKTV - faced much the same suspicion and hostility from their own industry as was common last century.

It's curious, isn't it, that industries so dependent on advertising and marketing revenues are so dismissive of the practice for their own businesses.

Having worked on a variety of newspaper, radio and TV accounts in my time at a media agency, the relationship between the editorial teams and the marketing teams was often dysfunctional, and more so than in any other market sector.

For most brands, the marketing team is the guardian of consumer insight, responsible for identifying the market potential and defining the product proposition, packaging and pricing. With media brands, those functions are usually the responsibility of people with titles such as editor, commissioner or maybe head of strategy.

Media marketers are confined to the jobs of communication and promotion, and sometimes not even all of that.

For instance, it was only when Andy Duncan arrived at the BBC that PR and on-air promotion - arguably the two most important marketing communication channels for broadcast brands - were made to report to the marketing director.

The cleverest marketers have all the skills to run a media organisation. Yet, when their talents are recognised, their origins in marketing are forever used to infer that they are imposters. Look at the derision that greeted Tim Davie's elevation to director of radio at the BBC.

Like Duncan before him, Davie's background in fast-moving consumer goods marketing provokes both hilarity and indignation from narrow-minded and arrogant editorial people.

As Cochrane, Kellie and Lucas made clear, marketing skills are actually being increasingly deployed at media companies, with some success. But they have had to add diplomacy and humility to their many other skills to facilitate collaboration and avoid offence.

I believe it's time marketing got the respect it deserves inside media companies.

Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox
tess.alps@haymarket.com

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