Media audit specialist The Billett Consultancy is accused of painting “a distorted picture of ITV and its role in recent inflation". The charge is made in a circular letter mailed this week to advertisers and agencies by letter by ITV marketing and commercial director, John Hardie.

Last week a report from Billett advised advertisers to shift their spend out of ITV, comparing its value unfavourably with Channel 5 [WAMN, 26-5-00]. ITV’s response concedes that it is unusual for it to respond to criticism, but believes the Billett report to be "inflammatory in its exhortation to advertisers to withdraw from the channel". Hardie’s letter refutes the report point-by-point, alleging errors of omission resulting in three essential flaws.

ITV's audience share over the past few months is on a par with that of two years ago, claims Hardie, despite the growth of multichannel TV. He also refers to ITV's growth in peak share last year, its improved ABC1 16-to-34-year-old audiences and the retention of its significant lead over the BBC in peaktime audiences.

Hardie insists that inflation is not solely an ITV problem; it prevails across all media, fuelled by the Niagara of dotcom and telecom advertising. Referring to the price premiums quoted for ITV, he accuses Billett of misleadingly comparing two extremes.

The ad industry is ambivalent on the issue. According to John Blakemore, advertising director of SmithKline Beecham: "I guess mathematically John Billett is correct. What he misses out of the equation is value, which means different things to different people."

Agencies, on the other hand are cautious, preferring to run with the fox while hunting with the hounds: "Billett's in a great position where he doesn't have to trade with ITV", said one anonymous agency chief.

News Source: CampaignLive (UK)