British commercial network ITV is to establish a client services team to develop closer ties with advertisers and agencies, pooling expertise from chief shareholders Granada Media and Carlton Communications.

Announcing the venture, to be launched next spring, at ITV’s annual schedule presentation, commercial and marketing director Jim Hytner stated: “We have learned there should be a trading relationship and a brand relationship with our agencies and advertisers and, using resources from Carlton and Granada, we will start to build on both.”

The decision was greeted warmly by the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, though concerns were raised that it could herald a merger of Carlton and Granada’s sales units by stealth. “We think it will be a positive move,” said ISBA. “As long as competition between the two ITV companies remains genuine competition in the trading arena, then it’s fine. If this initiative spilt over into the trading arena, we would have serious concerns.”

However, ITV’s decision angered other commercial broadcasters. The network had been involved in informal talks with BSkyB, Channel 4 and Channel 5 about establishing an industry body, similar to the Radio Advertising Bureau, to promote TV as an advertising medium. This seems to have been shelved by ITV in favour of its own initiative.

“It is common sense that TV should market the strength of the medium and we are extremely disappointed that ITV wants to go off and do its own thing,” said Nick Milligan, Channel 5’s chief executive. “This will not deter everyone else outside ITV from having a joint initiative for TV.”

Somewhat ironically, the meeting also saw ITV chief executive Stuart Prebble apologise to media agencies for the network’s reputation for arrogance.

News source: CampaignLive (UK); Media Week (UK)