The worst scenario for best intentions

There are some intriguing parallels between Tony Blair and Richard Eyre. Both took over institutions which many thought moribund, both promised sweeping changes to a tight timetable - and both are now discovering that events, and popular opinion, can throw even the clearest thinkers off track.

There are some intriguing parallels between Tony Blair and Richard

Eyre. Both took over institutions which many thought moribund, both

promised sweeping changes to a tight timetable - and both are now

discovering that events, and popular opinion, can throw even the

clearest thinkers off track.



Tobacco sponsorship has proved the undoing of Tony Blair’s

whiter-than-white appeal. Now Richard Eyre faces the first test of the

new-look ITV and the way it responds to those who pay the bills.



Significantly, the debate over ITV’s new sales policy comes at the same

time as new figures which show declining audience share for both the BBC

and ITV, and that ITV’s share of commercial viewing declined from 61.2%

last year to 55.6% this year.



Much more of this and ITV will no longer command a majority of

commercial TV viewers, and its power to negotiate with - much less

dictate to - its advertisers will weaken accordingly.



Eyre, of course, isn’t directly responsible for ITV sales, so it would

be unfair to lay the latest dispute at his door.



It’s a matter of sales practices rather than brand strategy. But there’s

no getting away from the fact that his efforts to build a strong brand

for ITV aren’t helped when advertisers are talking seriously, as our

front page story reveals they are, of Office of Fair Trading referrals

and withdrawal of business.



For both Blair and Eyre, the honeymoon is very definitely over, and it’s

time to accept that all the good intentions in the world don’t matter

when a brand falls out with its customer base.



What matters in the long term is what is delivered, not what is

promised.



Still, Richard Eyre is only a third of the way through his famous 100

days and it may yet be that the present fuss will die down in time for a

stunning announcement just after Christmas. Hiring a real-life FMCG

client as marketing director may yet result in fresh thinking about ITV

and its place in the market.



We certainly hope so. Richard Eyre and his new team are the best news to

come out of ITV for many years. Ultimately, it is in no one’s interests

for a network which still commands by far the biggest commercial

audience in the country to continue on its previous path of gentle

decline.



For everyone’s sakes, the present dispute needs to be settled quickly.



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