Advertisers Come Out Fighting Over ITV Merger

04 November 2002

Britain’s major advertisers have dismissed the merger plans of Carlton Communications and Granada Media as “hopelessly unrealistic”, restating their hostility to the deal in its present form.

ISBA (the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers) represents over three hundred companies with an aggregated total communications spend in excess of £10 billion.

In a paper published Friday ISBA restates its case against the mooted merger, while conceding that the document adds “nothing new” to the debate. “Its intention is simply to make crystal clear ISBA’s position for the information of all interested parties,” says the trade body.

ISBA’s opposition focuses on the dominance a single ITV company would enjoy – commanding over 50% of the UK television advertising market. Currently, two separate sales organizations – Carlton Sales and Granada Enterprises – represent their respective parents and the remaining ITV minnows. They negotiate separately with advertisers and agencies and to some extent compete for business.

In a sop to advertisers and regulators, Carlton is to sell its sales operation to a management buyout team [WAMN: 18-Oct-02], claiming this would create an independent entity; while Granada’s sales house would become a unit of ITV plc and in notional competition with the former Carlton sales company.

Ian Twinn, ISBA director of public affairs drew a line in the sand: “To keep one [sales house] and sell one would not give us sufficient comfort. And keeping them both is a non-starter.”

Onlookers believe the timing of ISBA’s ‘nothing new’ document is a second warning shot across the broadcasters’ bows - and is also intended for consumption by the Independent Television Commission and the Office of Fair Trading, the two regulatory bodies whose approval the merger requires.

“I find that [separate sales house] deeply unconvincing,” says Twinn. “They seem to be wasting everybody's time – they’d not even get to the starting block [with the current proposals].”

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff