UK TV Adspend Bonanza Prophesied for 2005

16 February 2005

Britain's forthcoming parliamentary election - widely predicted for May - will be the engine that powers TV advertising growth to around 12% in this year's first quarter.

So say the seers at ZenithOptimedia who, if they have raked their entrails accurately, say the January-March period will be the industry's best since 2000.

Their prediction follows that of the Centre for Economics and Business Research, whose crystal ball sees an annual adspend uplift of 7% to £23 billion ($43.5bn; €33.5bn) despite fears that the UK economy is decelerating.

The Central Office of Information - the administrative interface between the British government and its roster of advertising and marketing agencies - has been even more profligate with taxpayers' pounds than usual this quarter.

Which to seasoned observers signals an imminent election (all British governments have the undemocratic luxury of being able to call a general election on any date within five years of taking office).

But once an election date is announced, no further government advertising is permitted in the six weeks preceding polling day. A Niagara of party political advertising then follows, heralding bonanza time for UK media, especially the TV and the billboard industries.

  • The merry month of May is not only the harginger of fertility; it will also mark the fifty-second anniversary of the launch of commercial television in the UK.

    And for most of those fifty-two years the industry has enjoyed what one of its early pioneers - the late Lord Roy Thompson of Fleet - famously described as a 'license to print money'. The unsavoury thought that TV might one day have to venture into the real world and sell its wares never entered his head.

    Or that of any other TV mogul. Even in the wake of the dotcom crash and the ensuing advertising recession, the UK industry has done little to sell itself collectively - until this week when the mountain laboured and brought forth a mouse named ... Thinkbox!

    Backed by all the UK's major commercial broadcasters and a £1.5 million ($2.84m; €2.19m) launch budget, Thinkbox's mission is to "make TV more sexy".

    The collective's eight board members are conscious their chosen brand name may attract derision - although given the fatuous monikers with which some new ad agencies adorn their portals, no-one is likely to notice.

    Opines Thinkbox board member Mark White (day job, executive director of sales at Five): "For every one person that thinks it's a w*nk [asterisk used to fox corporate spam filters], there'll be ten who think it's wonderful."

    "Enough people to make a minority?", to paraphrase master moviemaker Robert Altman.

    Data sourced from Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff