ITV companies launch ad blitz

ITV companies yesterday unveiled a television and press marketing campaign worth as much as pounds 30m, in an effort to see off commercial competitors and to attract new viewers.

The campaign marks a step toward much closer co-operation among ITV companies, which have squabbled in the past over issues such as scheduling, production and advertising share. It follows confirmation last week that the ITV companies will also develop common plans for the launch of digital television services.

Launching the marketing campaign, Steve Morrison, managing director of LWT and chairman of the ITV Marketing Group, said: "We are out to show that ITV is the most popular television channel in Europe."

Developed by M&C Saatchi, the campaign comprises six new 60-second TV adverts, the first of which was launched on ITV last night. In addition, ten 10-second commercials will be peppered throughout the schedule from now until the end of the year.

The adverts feature well-known ITV personalities extolling the virtues of other network programmes. Jack and Vera, from Coronation Street, wax poetic about the South Bank Show, while two regulars from Gladiators debate the relative merits of contemporary and costume dramas.

The television campaign represents about pounds 26m worth of ITV air time. The ITV companies are also spending pounds 5m on press and trade advertisements, posters and some special "multimedia" events. All adverts will include the ITV-3 logo and the words, "Britain's most popular button."

The commercial broadcaster has angered advertisers by pushing rates higher year on year, despite declining audiences and a bitter battle for viewers with the BBC and Channel 4.