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ITV CEO: hold social media advertising to TV's standards

05 Dec 2018  |  Michaela Jefferson 
ITV CEO: hold social media advertising to TV's standards

The bosses of the UK's largest commercial broadcasters have renewed their criticism of the inequality between regulatory oversight on TV compared to social media, with ITV's CEO branding the television ban on Iceland's Christmas ad "ludicrous."

The supermarket chain repurposed a short animated film by Greenpeace illustrating the destructive impact deforestation has on wildlife in the production of palm-oil, in a Christmas advertising campaign intended for ITV.

However, Clearcast - the non-governmental body which pre-approves most British television advertising - deemed the ad "political" due to its association with Greenpeace, and therefore in violation of the 2003 Communications Act.

"It was run in its entire form on social media - and social media will make quite a lot of money on that - but we couldn't run the ad," said Dame Carolyn McCall at Mediatel's Future TV Advertising Forum this week.

McCall, stressing that she was not criticising Clearcast's judgement but the outdated nature of the regulations, said: "It was just ludicrous. It should have been allowed - but if it wasn't going to be, why should it be allowed to run as content anywhere else?"

According to Kantar Millward Brown's annual consumer research into the effectiveness of Christmas advertising campaigns, Iceland's was the most powerful ad of 2018 - having been viewed more than 65 million times online.

McCall's comments were made during a wide-ranging interview with fellow bosses at Channel 4 and Sky - the first time all three CEOs had come together to be interviewed, and cited as a demonstration of a more collaborative strategy to help TV pit itself against new threats.

During the interview with Mediatel columnist Dominic Mills, McCall also criticised "the arcane nature of regulations", branding the watershed "bizarre" in today's on-demand society and suggesting that the Contract Rights Renewal legislation is outdated.

The conversation echoed concerns outlined in September in a letter to The Sunday Telegraph, signed by Sky, ITV, Channel 4 and the BBC amongst others, that there is an "urgent" need for independent oversight of social media.

"No matter how they characterise themselves, [social media platforms] publish content and monetise it, and to us they feel like an advertising platform that is subject to little or no scrutiny whatsoever," said Stephen van Rooyen, CEO of Sky UK and Ireland.

All three CEOs argue that lax regulation of social media is contributing to the Facebook/Google duopoly getting a disproportionate slice of the adspend pie, which according to McCall is compounded by the fact that "agency economics favour online."

However, the panel expressed apprehension that there may be unintended consequences to pursing regulation for social media platforms and persuading the Competition and Market's Authority that the duopoly are legitimate competitors to TV.

"We have to be very careful that we don't end up in a worse position than we're in today," McCall said.

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