OPINION: And another thing - Fast lessons must be learnt following losses of minutage

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 anomaly.

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.

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