ITV wants to be your business partner (while spooning)

17 Oct 2018  |  David Pidgeon 
ITV wants to be your business partner (while spooning)

"Commercially, Love Island is a great example of how we now want to work closer with brands," said ITV's commercial boss this week as the broadcaster hosted advertisers, agencies and its best-known talent at its upfronts - now dubbed the 'ITV Palooza' under the leadership of new CEO Carolyn McCall.

ITV, dialling up the celeb-o-meter to include Robbie Williams this year, says it wants to "spoon" with brands, just like the contestants on the hit reality show. And to demonstrate just what it means, the broadcaster noted the "unprecedented" 11 commercial partnerships it had in place to milk blood from Love Island this year.

Product placement, headline sponsors, podcast sponsors, product licensing and merchandising and special ads made in-house and linked to e-commerce. There was a lot going on, and we can expect a lot more of it in future - via agencies and direct-brand partnerships.

"We're uniquely placed to do this stuff because we're a broadcaster and a producer - we can make stuff happen," Williams told the 1,300 strong audience at Royal Festival Hall on Tuesday night.

Commercially, the business has never had its arms open so wide - just look at the building of a Co-op and Costa into the set of Coronation Street.

As Williams' deputy, Simon Daglish, said: "We're scaling up...our vision is to move from being a media partner to a valuable business partner." There was a strong emphasis on the word 'business' and they want their commercial partnerships to work not just for the CMO, but the CEO.

To that end, ITV is setting up a new client development and strategy team, coupled with a boost in investment for adtech, addressable TV and data.

The condensed version of the business case, delivered by Daglish, is simply that ITV offers "the best of both worlds" - mass reach on TV and tailor-made targeting on ITV Hub (digs about their digital-first competitors' brand safety, viewability and transparency issues were customarily made along the way).

ITV Hub now has 26m registered users and two million people watched Love Island live on the online platform - genuinely impressive for the three-year-old platform.

With rights to big sporting events such as the 2018 World Cup and next year's Rugby World Cup, ITV should feel pretty confident because it's broadcasting the mass appeal stuff that has the clout to unify an entire population.

However, the looming threat of Netflix, Facebook, Google and Amazon must weigh heavy. If they should get their paws on the big sporting events, then its the beginning of the end.

It was also a shame most of the new dramas heading our way didn't exactly set pulses racing - more Sheridan Smith, more crime - but ITV is doing all it can to woo big name brands (John Lewis for example) as well as young digital challengers (Harry's, Airbnb et al), and making the media work hard (Just Eat's sponsorship of X-factor helped them make 500,000 deliveries during the final).

ITV says it has it all - and for the time being it's probably right. It just needs to ensure the FAANG spectre can be kept at bay - and that might require lots more crafty lobbying of Government to receive all the help it can get.


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NickDrew, CEO, Fuse Insights on 19 Oct 2018
“The last two paragraphs are perhaps the most concerning for consumers, at least if they presage future strategy. ITV has a great record of high-quality programming (punctuated occasionally by less august fare), with Broadchurch and more recently Vanity Fair standing apart in drama, and the Tour de France just one example of its solid sports coverage. Trying to guarantee its place in the household through legislation rather than innovation or quality of programming would be a backward step ("ITV by force, not by choice"), and surely a shift away from the "public service" part of its PSB mandate.”