Estimating the price of TV has never been easy. In a recession it
is even more difficult, as some clients naturally ask why agencies
didn't know earlier and want their money back.
In the short term, agencies rely heavily on contractors for their
booking levels and, in the main, the accuracy is pretty good. But
viewing is always a much more difficult call, especially for smaller
sub-groups, such as 16- to 34-year-old men.
For a regional push targeting young men on Central in August, we
predicted a viewing growth of 8 per cent. This looked about right as
impacts for the past two years were down a combined 28 per cent and
there was extra football to watch.
For Central's neighbouring ITV region, viewing went up 46 per cent. For
Central, impacts for the same demographic slumped 18 per cent. Explain
That was August. In September, we had the US tragedy. At a stroke,
schedules were amended and swaths of advertising minutage disappeared.
This is being replaced but it's a slow process - especially if you have
date-sensitive campaigns. Only around one third of what was lost was
recouped in September, and minutage was being replaced up to 11
What buyers wanted most was the peak minutage back - and they wanted it
back as soon as possible. The week with the highest daily payback of
peak minutage looks like being that of 8 October, three weeks after the
tragedy. This is making the price estimation on ITV - and most other
channel deals are related to ITV's price - a daily nightmare.
Could it have been handled any better? I guess in hindsight it's always
easy to say yes. The minutage situation could have been released to
agencies sooner, and an estimation made of the effect on impacts. More
airtime and especially more peak time should have been released in
There should have been more consensus within ITV about what minutage was
being replaced and at what time. Some sales groups claimed they weren't
even aware extra minutage was being released.
It hasn't been an easy situation, but we must ensure the advertiser
doesn't suffer unduly. Hopefully, we've learnt lessons, which may need
to be taken forward. The 11 September disaster will have more
repercussions and broadcasters will and should amend their programming
at short notice. It will always be a bit fluid in terms of minutage, but
agencies must be better and earlier informed.