The news last week that Procter & Gamble supremo John Hardie had
been appointed marketing and commercial director at ITV has not come a
moment too soon.
The network faces falling audiences, sliding impacts, galloping airtime
inflation, increasing competition, customer dissatisfaction, in-fighting
among its three major shareholders and a confused identity. Whichever
way you look at it, ITV is the supreme marketing challenge.
Until now, the words marketing and ITV have often appeared mutually
But with the appointment of Hardie, ITV has recognised that its brand
could benefit from some of the classic techniques learnt at P&G’s
’university of marketing’.
Ironically, the key problems facing ITV were voiced by another P&G man
earlier this year. In March, P&G’s UK managing director, Paul Polman,
spoke for many advertisers when he complained ITV was failing to deliver
large audiences at reasonable prices. He acknowledged that improved
programming was part of the answer, but also called for extra ads to be
For many advertisers, this is still the best formula for tackling the
spectre of airtime inflation. But, inevitably, the problem is also bound
up with improved programming and growing audiences.
ITV will be hoping that a classically trained P&G marketer like Hardie
can devise the sort of strategy which will make more viewers choose his
brand in a crowded market. That means getting the proposition absolutely
right and then following it up with an impeccable product which keeps
audiences tuned in.
In choosing Hardie, ITV may also hope to echo the success of the Radio
Advertising Bureau, which under another ex-P&G man, Doug McArthur, has
championed the cause of commercial radio to such effect.
So, as Hardie sits down with new ITV chief executive Richard Eyre and
programme director David Liddiment in the next few weeks, many will be
hoping that the rejuvenation of ITV can start in earnest.
Eyre’s arrival from the top job at Capital Radio in July was crucial to
the development of a new ITV. A highly respected practitioner, with
experience both on the agency and media-owner side, Eyre quickly showed
he meant business by poaching David Liddiment, one of the best
programmers in the business, from Granada UK Broadcasting and promising
to make a real difference within 100 days.
The arrival of Hardie completed the management triumvirate. ITV is now
ready to do business. Eyre says: ’John comes from the university of
marketing and is uniquely qualified. He has run a business and can
fulfill a role which is broader than the marketing of ITV and its
programmes. As part of our 100-day promise we pledged a rejuvenation of
our marketing efforts.’
With a reputed pounds 40m marketing war chest at his disposal, Hardie’s
main task is to sell ITV to both viewers and advertisers. As with most
classic marketing dilemmas, building the brand’s equity should be key to
solving all the other attendant problems.
ITV’s troubleshooting trio is also understood to be on a bonus scheme,
which means if it wins back viewing share it will be reflected in the
Many of ITV’s problems stem from an unusual structure as a broadcaster
and complex legislative restrictions.
ITV was set up in 1955 as a network of independent regional
This has lead to the growth of a sprawling committee-style management,
dogged by inertia and inflexibility.
Ask most industry pundits what message they would send to the new ITV
marketing director and their response is unequivocal: focus, focus,
Simon Rees, deputy managing director of TMD Carat, says: ’ITV can’t
compete on all fronts. The main focus should be on the consumer. Looking
at the core market and building on that is the way forward, and the
advertising market will follow.’
Fighting the flak
With the flak ITV has attracted recently - particularly over airtime
inflation - it’s easy to forget that it is still the brand leader, with
a long history, massive penetration and a great heritage. Hardie will no
doubt be mindful of this in the months ahead.
He may yearn for the glory days of the 60s and 70s, when ITV was the
only commercial broadcaster and shows like Sunday Night at the London
Palladium and Double Your Money regularly scored 40, 50 and even 60 TV
ratings and chalked up a 69% share of TV hours viewed. There were big
lunches and even bigger cars and the persona of the sales director was
Tim Wootton, ex-chairman of ITV sales house TSMS and now non-executive
chairman of Zenith Media, recalls: ’It was a very racy time. We were not
accountable and there was no competition. Advertisers grew to hate ITV
companies because very few would actually talk to their customers.’
Events hit a nadir in 1987 at the ITV conference in Copenhagen. Airtime
inflation had been raging and clients finally rose in revolt to berate
the sales directors for their arrogance and indifference.
Other pressures quickly followed. Competition was on the horizon in the
shape of Channel 4, which launched in 1982, and in 1990, BSkyB entered
Since then, the situation has deteriorated. Between 1993 and 1996, ITV’s
share of viewing declined from 40% to 36%, while over the past five
years, TV inflation has been running at four to seven times the retail
Some steps have been taken to try to stop the decline. M&C Saatchi was
hired to develop a pounds 5m campaign for ITV and came up with the
’Britain’s favourite button’ campaign. In March, ITV stole Formula 1
from the BBC and crowed about all the affluent young males who would
Then, in May, it was announced the ITV Association and its central
commissioning body, The Network Centre would be scrapped to pave the way
for a so-called ITV Ltd, a structure designed to eliminate bureaucracy
and delays. The idea is that ITV Ltd becomes a leaner, meaner machine,
able to cut through the red tape, referrals and clashes which have held
back Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster.
One of the first problems the new management will have to address is
ITV’s confused identity; how to promote the overall proposition while
taking account of its strong regional elements. Jim Hytner, marketing
director at BSkyB, says: ’You can’t have the Carlton or LWT brand
stronger than ITV. We’ll probably still see them promoting themselves
but that shouldn’t happen. Everything should fall under the umbrella
brand and all the regional marketing resources must report in to the
Jerry Buhlmann, managing director at BBJ Media Services, believes there
is a strong case for doing away with regional brands altogether. ’They
water down the ITV brand,’ he says. However, Wootton believes one of
ITV’s great strengths is its regions and says it should be possible to
strike the right balance without confusing consumers. ’You can have the
benefit of regional branding under the umbrella ITV proposition,’ he
says. It is certainly hard to see Granada willingly giving up its long
association with Coronation Street.
Options such as branding peak-time separately have also been tentatively
discussed, but it’s clear this whole area will need careful handling and
a clever new ad campaign to strike the right balance with consumers.
It may be operating in a heavily legislated marketplace, but ITV can
still learn a few lessons from its competitors.
Nick Theakstone, broadcast director at MediaVest, says: ’Channel 4 has
done a fantastic job selling itself. People know what they’re getting:
thought-provoking, entertaining programmes. Sky has become the sports
channel. Channel 5 has struggled, but it’s getting there. ITV must brand
itself as the channel which shows quality programmes and brings in big
Phil Teeman, board director at The Network, agrees: ’The biggest
strength Channel 4 has had in a fragmented marketplace is a brand
persona - that will be critical.’
There are also lessons to be drawn from the BBC, which engenders
fantastic brand loyalty, has a strongly-defined culture, strong
programming and ensures it moves with the times - witness its recent
corporate identity rethink and its commercialisation.
Hytner, who is believed to have been approached about the marketing job,
says that short-line reporting structures are vital in broadcast
’You can’t have marketing by committee,’ he says.
ITV’s structure has often meant it has been slow to change. ’They
haven’t reacted to changing tastes. They can’t continue to throw out
Soldier, Soldier,’ says Theakstone. ’They’re in a market where they’re
competing for people’s leisure time.’
Change of channel
There is a general consensus that ITV needs to adopt a fresh approach to
programming in a bid to reel the younger audiences back in. Many buyers
feel it needs to be more experimental, to throw in more surprises. Media
agency chiefs also believe ITV should invest in long-term products. ’The
commercial pressures on ITV mean if something doesn’t perform
ratings-wise the temptation is to pull it. They have to give programmes
time to improve and so raise the audience base,’ says Teeman.
Nevertheless, Wootton defends the network against charges that it is too
down-market. ’You get more ABs watching Blind Date than, say, a
documentary on Sibelius,’ he says. ’Blind Date is a quality programme of
its genre - it just happens it’s not the middle-class programming that
marketing and media directors like.’
Hardie must also start to build a better relationship with
Agencies say they would like to see the development of a ’listening
attitude’ and more dialogue with clients about their needs.
Shortly after his appointment, Eyre told a meeting of some of ITV’s top
advertisers that he had not taken the job to manage decline. It was a
But Tony Kenyon, chief executive of The Negotiation Centre, doubts
whether Eyre and his new team can completely reverse ITV’s fortunes. ’I
don’t see how Richard can do anything other than ultimately manage
’Channel 5 is growing, satellite and cable continue to penetrate more
homes and we’re soon to see the launch of digital. Improvements can be
made in the way ITV markets itself - but its total share of audience
will continue to decline.’
MAKE-UP ARTIST - By Julian Lee
John Hardie, 35, is the man who took P&G into cosmetics and who left it
with his swansong: this month’s pounds 20m launch of Oil of Ulay
As one of the senior executives behind the company’s pounds 1.3bn
acquisition of the Max Factor and Cover Girl brands in 1989, Hardie was
responsible for pitching P&G headlong into the competitive European
The task was handed to him after he had proved his mettle in a number of
jobs for P&G’s laundry division in Newcastle.
From the start of his career with P&G in 1983, Hardie’s star was on the
rise. He worked on flagship products such as Fairy and was soon promoted
after the successful relaunch of Bold.
After transferring to P&G’s cosmetics division, he was given the UK
marketing director’s role as a reward for his work on the Max Factor
Further promotion came in 1994. He was appointed as the firm’s youngest
general manager and sent to Germany.
He was enticed back with the top job in cosmetics and toiletries,
managing director Europe. It is a role he was said to enjoy but he
longed for a more hands-on marketing director’s role. ’All power and no
influence,’ as one insider put it.
With achievements such as tripling Cover Girl’s business in the UK and
developing Old Spice’s first brand extension in 60 years to his name, he
will be sorely missed at P&G.
A loner whose commercial acumen is said to be second to his creative and
strategic skills, Hardie has got himself back into a job that will
involve more marketing than management.