It is now a year since Richard Eyre, chief executive of ITV,
confirmed the appointment of John Hardie to the newly created role of
marketing and commercial director. A marketing veteran from Procter &
Gamble, with the rank of managing director, cosmetics and toiletries,
Hardie’s appointment completed ITV’s top management triumvirate.
The trio were quickly christened the ITV ’dream team’: Eyre, the
ambassador; David Liddiment, the programming guru; and Hardie, the fmcg
marketer, bringing with him some much needed client focus.
But after 14 years at P&G, working in areas such as laundry products and
cosmetics, Hardie admits ITV was something of a culture shock: ’There
were two significant differences: first, the shareholder structure was
very different to a line management structure, and second, how much of
the business was conducted on a public platform.
’I’ve never had to justify my marketing strategy to 400 people
At Procters you just live and die by the results.’
Yet, one year down the line, Hardie knows that like P&G, it is results
by which ITV will ultimately be judged.
When he joined the network last November, Hardie inherited a brand in
disarray. Audiences were falling, airtime inflation rising and ITV was
facing increased competition and a vocal band of dissatisfied
In the past 12 months Hardie, now a familiar name in the industry, has
clearly become a vital member of ITV’s management team as they set out
to woo advertisers and media agencies.
In this he has clearly been helped by his background: ’Because Hardie
talks to advertisers as a former advertiser, in a language they can
understand, he automatically gets a bit of a leg-up over his
predecessors at the ITV Network Centre,’ says Russell Boyman, managing
partner at Mediapolis.
In a series of slick presentations - the initial one to mark Eyre’s
first 100 days, the most recent, ITV 99, to launch ITV’s new branding -
Hardie, alongside Eyre and Liddiment, has impressed the marketing
community by admitting past mistakes and laying out a strategy for
’For the first time ever, as far as I can remember, ITV has demonstrated
a commitment to, and understanding of, its customers’ needs,’ says John
Blakemore, advertising director at SmithKline Beecham.
’After years of being told that we didn’t know what we were talking
about, a group of people stood up and said to us, ’yes, you’re right and
this is what we’re going to do about it’.’
Hardie has also brought a new professionalism and coherence to ITV’s
Observers cite the disbanding of the Marketing Committee as one example
of this, although Hardie was actually pre-empted in this when, at his
first meeting with the committee, Clive Jones, chief executive of
Carlton Television, announced the dissolution of the committee as the
first item on the agenda.
What Hardie can take credit for is the creation of the new central
promotions unit. Formerly, promotions - in the form of on-air trailers -
were organised region by region, leading to considerable inconsistency
in interpretation. The first airing of Reckless, the recently repeated
drama series starring Robson Green, was marketed as a medical drama in
one region, a comedy in another and a sexy drama in a third.
Now, ITV’s huge promotional muscle - equal in terms of ITV airtime to
the combined weight of BT, P&G and Unilever - is managed centrally.
Hardie’s four-strong marketing team write creative briefs for all the
on-air promotions, helped by input from the programme makers and
Trailers are produced centrally by the 20-strong promotions team and the
brief is then passed on to advertising agency HHCL & Partners, which
produces all off-air promotions.
Much of the marketing positions ITV programmes as ’event’ television,
with press advertising similar to that which is used to promote major
While ITV’s last ad campaign used corporate image advertising to promote
the network as ’Britain’s favourite button’, the focus is now on
promoting peak-time programmes both on-air, in the national press and on
Support for its recently announced autumn schedule will cost around half
of the network’s pounds 10m annual marketing budget.
Furthermore, following the launch of ITV’s new heart motif, which
positions the station with the strapline ’TV from the heart’, Hardie has
increased the presence of the ITV brand on screen.
Hardie admits to being pleased with what has been achieved and claims
the recent national press advertising behind a revamp of The Bill has
boosted audience share. ’We have improved the programme and supported it
with advertising. It is a classic case of new product improvement,’ he
says. He is similarly upbeat about the interest generated in the
documentary Fat, and new drama series Liverpool 1.
’What he has done is bring a discipline to ITV’s marketing strategy,
which comes from working with a large, successful fmcg marketing
organisation,’ says Blakemore.
This classical marketing training seems to have been instrumental in ITV
management’s decision to target a 38% audience share this year, to be
followed by 39% next year and 40% in 2000.
Observers, almost universally, describe this as a brave move. Hardie
himself admits that when they announced these targets they didn’t know
how they would achieve them. ’It is like holding a gun to your head and
saying if I don’t achieve this, I’ll pull the trigger,’ he says.
’At that time we didn’t have approval for further investments in ITV
schedules. We had in mind that we wanted to move News at Ten but knew it
would be some time before we could even make an application, and weren’t
sure we would be able to make the changes we have to the marketing
So why did they do it? Hardie suggests that it is a policy learnt at his
former company: ’P&G sets high targets and then works out how to achieve
those targets,’ he says. ’That is why brands such as Pantene, Sunny
Delight and Pringles are such success stories.’
In this case, however, the prediction looks likely to haunt ITV. The
network will have to increase its share of viewing dramatically in the
final quarter of 1998 if it is to achieve 38% this year.
Next year’s target will be even harder, especially as a number of
commentators suggest that ITV has been helped in 1998 by the record
viewing figures for its World Cup matches.
Little surprise, then, that Eyre’s answer when he was asked recently if
ITV would actually make its targets if it wasn’t able to move News at
Ten, was an uncharacteristically downbeat ’no’.
The fact is that after a year in which the groundswell of support has
swung considerably back in ITV’s favour, there is a feeling that the
honeymoon is now over.
Advertisers remain unhappy about ITV’s policy of leaving gaps in its
schedule to try to prevent rivals scheduling against it.
’In an ideal world they would commit to some kind of core schedule and
then allow advertisers to follow those programmes as they move,’ says
After a year’s grace while the team bedded in, advertisers are now
looking for results. Any kind of excuse, such as not being able to move
News at Ten, will have little sway with advertisers and agencies if ITV
falls short of its self-imposed targets.
’To a large degree, the professional manner in which the ITV team has
set out to tackle the marketing of ITV has been one of the highlights of
the year,’ says Steve Williams, head of TV at BMP Optimum.
’But we have to be careful not to let ITV’s new slick approach
overshadow the performance issues.’
He is not alone in this view. ’There are some interesting parallels
between ITV, Tony Blair and Glenn Hoddle,’ says Boyman.
’In the past year all three have told us ’give us a chance and its going
to get better’. For Hoddle time has now run out, Blair is heading that
way, and time will begin to run out for ITV next year.’
Hardie is clearly aware that the clock is ticking, but he remains
optimistic. ’I think we’ve still got a run at it,’ he says. ’We’ll take
the flak and see how close the numbers are. But for me the real question
is ’Are we moving ahead as a network?’. When we inherited it, it was
declining by 6% a year. Even if we miss by a tad, we’ll do a lot better
than our trend.
’I don’t think that will carry much weight with advertisers. But if you
suffer a setback you regroup and see what you can do. We will keep
ourselves committed to the targets we have set ourselves.’
MEDIA OBSERVERS RATE ITV’S PROGRESS OVER THE PAST YEAR
STEF CLARKE - Manager media strategy and comms at Halifax
RELATIONSHIP WITH ADVERTISERS: Hardie started as a relative unknown,
whereas he is now very well known and has shown himself to be quite
willing to talk to advertisers. 8/10
BRANDING: This has only just started so the jury is still out. Overall
it is good they’re looking to brand ITV separately but it is too early
to tell if it will work. 5/10
PROGRAMMING: Encouraging signs, but the audience delivery is the proof
of the pudding. The autumn will be crunch time. 7/10
OVERALL PERFORMANCE: Overall ITV has done well to date but I will expect
more in the future. 6/10
NICK THEAKSTONE - Head of TV at MediaVest
RELATIONSHIP WITH ADVERTISERS: Hardie has made the team more
approachable: he makes himself available and is not afraid of sitting
round the table with clients. 8/10
BRANDING: A key area, which has been confusing in the past but hopefully
Hardie’s current strategy will make it clearer. 7/10
PROGRAMMING: ITV has good programming in the pipeline, although
advertisers need to know when it is going out. They need to make moving
the news a priority, and to get around the opposition from the
OVERALL PERFORMANCE: ITV set itself a tough target of 38% by the end of
the year. I don’t think it is going to make it. 6/10
CHRIS BOOTHBY - Broadcast director at BBJ Media Services
RELATIONSHIP WITH ADVERTISERS: Some improvements, albeit from a low
base, but still a slight tendency to ’talk at’ rather than ’listen to’
the advertisers’. 6/10
BRANDING: Definitely more coherent strategy and brand identity. Much
PROGRAMMING: Positive developments, but audiences were helped by the
World Cup. It will be difficult to maintain momentum with increased
competition next year. The News at Ten issue must not become an excuse
for under-performance. 7/10
OVERALL PERFORMANCE: Eyre, Liddiment and Hardie have given Network
Centre a new authority, enabling ITV to be presented as a single brand.
A good start but the real test is still to come. 7/10
RUSSELL BOYMAN - Managing partner at Mediapolis
RELATIONSHIP WITH ADVERTISERS: Hardie has made ITV more accessible by
talking to marketers in their language. Setting targets was brave, but
showed ITV was serious. 8/10
BRANDING: The heart motif fits ITV quite well, but on screen looks
derivative of BBC2. The ad campaign has been smothered by the SkyDigital
PROGRAMMING: The first year has been a mixed bag, with some success in
the second quarter but a disappointing start to the autumn season.
OVERALL PERFORMANCE: A decent start, but the initial goodwill will start
to evaporate. ITV’s customers will be looking for results in the year to