ANALYSIS: BROADCAST PR; PR is latest weapon in ITV’s ratings battle

nullAdvertisers have long criticised ITV for attracting downmarket, older audiences. Now Lynne Franks has been appointed by the ITV Network Centre to change the script

Advertisers have long criticised ITV for attracting downmarket, older

audiences. Now Lynne Franks has been appointed by the ITV Network Centre

to change the script

Lynne Franks’ appointment by the ITV Network Centre last week was

something of a coup for the agency.

But while many agencies would love to add the ITV name to their client

roster, the cachet doesn’t come without a few headaches. Reconciling the

interests of ITV’s 16 individual companies is not easy. It faces the

same problems that all umbrella organisations do of trying to balance

the collective goals with those of the individual companies.

Still Barry Cox, the ITV Network Centre director of corporate affairs,

obviously rated Lynne Franks as fab enough not to invite agencies with

experience of the Network Centre to pitch. Lowe Bell, which handles PR

for the Network Centre’s sponsorship committee and media specialist

Propeller Marketing Communications, which has handled work for ITV

before, didn’t get a look in.

Lynne Franks’ deputy managing director Julian Henry will be getting a

taste of ITV’s bureaucratic nature when he attends weekly meetings at

the Network Centre along with M&C Saatchi CEO Nick Hurrell.

An exciting client it may be, but also time consuming. The simplest

task, such as issuing a press release, can become a nightmare with the

16 ITV companies all wanting to approve the wording. Henry will also

have to tread carefully to avoid upsetting any of their in-house PR


Lynne Franks’ brief is to create a proactive campaign on the back of M&C

Saatchi’s pounds 5 million advertising drive. The campaign is two

pronged - consumer and business-to business - namely advertisers and

their media buyers.

Much activity will revolve around a list of ‘killer facts’ drawn up by

M&C Saatchi such as: ‘more people watch Coronation Street than are in

full-time employment in the UK’ and ‘London’s Burning is the most

popular programme for 16 to 34 year olds’. Although how Granada, maker

of Coronation Street, will react to a PR agency hired by the Network

Centre talking to journalists about its programme remains to be seen.

Henry, who is tight-lipped as he has been told by the Network Centre

not to comment on the account, denies that there will be problems with

in-house PR departments. Cox was not available to comment.

‘We will not just be doing media relations work on programmes. ITV is

involved with CD-ROM and the Internet and we will be looking at how we

can promote these in the context of the marketing department,’ says


Martin Loat, managing director of Propeller Marketing Communications,

says difficulties are inevitable. He had problems when ITV was trying to

agree sponsorship deals for programmes. Details of deals must be cleared

with each broadcaster by law as ITV is not allowed to sell airtime


‘ITV does seem to suffer from schizophrenia in that the Network Centre

at one level co-ordinates the network push, individual broadcasters push

their own brand in the market while the three sales houses have their

own agendas. That’s not being critical, it’s just a fact,’ says Loat.

‘ITV’s never too clear about what it’s promoting - the Network,

individual regional companies or sales houses.’

ITV does, however, seem fairly clear about the problems it is facing. It

is struggling with falling ratings, particularly among young audiences,

and is increasingly wary of new competition, of which there will be

plenty over the coming years. Granada Sky Broadcasting launches seven

channels on 1 October, C5 launches in January next year and digital TV

begins broadcasting in December 1997. C5 poses the greatest threat as it

will be firmly treading on ITV’s toes. It has made no secret of the fact

that it is targeting the youth market which ITV struggles to attract.

It is a threat that Channel 4 is obviously taking seriously judging by

reports that it is planning to spend pounds 2 million on an advertising

campaign to update its image. But even Channel 4, currently suffering

ratings blues on its big audience puller the Big Breakfast, is not as

vulnerable as ITV even though its domain is youth and comedy. It can

take a slightly more relaxed attitude to falling audience figures

because of its protected status as a public service broadcaster.

The launch of digital TV may be imminent but it will not pose as

immediate a threat as C5 until receivers are readily available at

affordable prices in the high street.

ITV knows it can ill afford to lose further audiences to rivals. The

decline in viewing has already raised the hackles of advertisers who are

not only complaining about the lack of young audiences, but also high

media inflation and ITV’s inability to deliver comedy and live sports

programming. The acquisition of live Formula 1 motor racing has

smoothed some ruffled feathers, but is not regarded as enough.

‘ITV has no mainstay in live sport, comedy is struggling and it still

hasn’t got a drama that isn’t a detective show,’ says Edward Lloyd-

Barnes, director of media buying agency IDK Media.

‘It is focusing on Moll Flanders but that won’t have wide enough appeal.

Meanwhile, instead of making new programmes, it is developing extra

episodes of existing soaps like Coronation Street.’

C5 has yet to unveil its programme line-up, but has confirmed that it

has clinched some top US programmes such as Melrose Place and Beverley

Hills 90210.

Henry will have his work cut out, particularly as his initial contract

is for three months - a period that will take him just short of C5’s


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