The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers is backing calls for a UK watchdog to ensure the fair treatment of advertisers.

The voice of Britain’s advertisers, ISBA has joined a campaign to create an ombudsman for the ad industry. Also in favour is Chris Hayward, ZenithOptimedia’s head of TV, who told a newspaper over the weekend: “I would personally like to see someone with an excellent knowledge of the industry act as an ombudsman to whom advertisers and media buyers would go to if they had a concern.”

ISBA is keen to safeguard advertisers’ interests should the merger between commercial TV groups Granada and Carlton Communications get the green light from competition regulators.

Granada and Carlton are the dominant players in terrestrial television giant ITV. Their two advertising sales houses between them control over 50% of Britain’s TV ad market.

What alarms ISBA and others in the industry is the prospect of these sales houses merging and the power the resulting firm will wield. They argue that the best way to prevent such dominance is for one or both of the sales units to be sold off, whereas Carlton and Granada claim certain restrictions on a combined house would be sufficient.

Regulators are yet to announce their final ruling. But even if the government rejects the ITV duo’s arguments and insists on a sales house sell-off, ISBA believes an advertising ombudsman would still be a good idea.

“An ombudsman could work on top of structural changes,” commented the lobby group’s director of media and advertising affairs Bob Wootton. “The right structural remedy, which might involve double divestment [of sales houses], would make it more difficult for ITV to find a way of circumnavigating the situation to its advantage.”

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff