Claire Beale on Advertising: Should we spend more, or less, in a crisis?

Recession presents advertising with a moral conundrum. If advertising encourages unnecessary consumption, does it therefore encourage financial irresponsibility? Are some forms of advertising unethical in a downturn?

Or does advertising have the power to fuel economic recovery, encouraging consumers to spend their way out of recession? Does advertising offer economic salvation?

As the UK's biggest advertisers gathered for their annual conference in London last week to pick over the recessionary rubble, it was very clear where the industry's leaders stood on this particular dilemma: advertising is an economic driver and it should be leading from the front by continuing to spend on advertising.

So, "Keep on, keeping on advertising" was the rallying cry at the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers' get-together. All of which would all have been manna to ITV's ears, if the broadcaster's chiefs hadn't been otherwise tied up on the day of the ISBA shindig.

The beleaguered broadcaster was rather busy elsewhere, announcing a £2.6bn loss last Wednesday. Mind you, the previous day a blaze of wild speculation had spread round adland that ITV was about to declare itself bankrupt, so in the end £2.6bn didn't seem quite so bad.

Naturally ITV's huge losses were accompanied by cuts: 600 jobs are going, £65m is being slashed from the programming budget, Friends Reunited is being sold off. Clearly, advertisers haven't been spending enough on ITV lately to make up for some poor strategic decisions.

It seems that the ITV commercial department is likely to lose about 15 per cent of its people. Sad. But when ITV brought in Boston Consulting to advise on a restructure last year, the commercial team is said to have been braced for a 25 per cent reduction in its head-count.

It was only asked to cut 9 per cent of commercial roles, to the bemusement of some sales chiefs who thought that a 25 per cent cut was about right. Ironically, spies tell me that ITV has a big, bold branding ad campaign ready to go, celebrating optimism and cheeriness, all rather ra-ra. Not surprisingly, ITV apparatchiks are wondering whether now is a good time to unleash that message on the viewing public.

Meanwhile, the financial collapse of ITV has left advertisers with another conundrum. Should they cut the ailing broadcaster more slack?

Advertisers have been on ITV's case ever since the merger of Carlton and Granada in 2003. Back then they fought for the establishment of a rule to prevent ITV abusing its dominant market position and the torturously convoluted Contracts Rights Renewal policy was conceived.

ITV has been arguing that the CRR binds are commercially crippling and that the TV and wider advertising markets have changed so significantly since 2003 that the rule is unnecessarily restrictive.

The OFT has just completed a consultation period over the future of CRR and advertisers have lobbied for the principles of protection against ITV abusing its power to be retained.

The trouble is that with ITV on its knees, advertisers are in danger of being seen to twist the knife and hinder its recovery. And who wants to be held responsible for killing Ant and Dec, Pop Idol, Coronation Street?

And the recent suggestion that ITV has mooted a merger with its terrestrial rivals Channel 4 and Five as a means of salvation will have sent advertisers into a flurry of panic.

No matter that the idea of such a terrestrial behemoth would be legislatively and practically unworkable. Or that Michael Grade has dismissed the plan as simply a "wheeze" to help ITV to shed the CRR shackles. Faced with a choice, advertisers would rather have a strong ITV than an even stronger merged terrestrial broadcaster.

The truth is that advertisers need a strong ITV. Advertisers still require a mainstream TV channel delivering mass audiences in healthy numbers. ITV is their best chance of having that.

Best in show: Lurpak (Wieden & Kennedy)

*I admit that first thing on a gloomy Monday might not be the best time to remind you of the joys of Saturday morning. And I strongly counsel you against viewing this week's Best In Show if you're feeling at all peckish.

Because Wieden & Kennedy's latest TV ad for Lurpak is a joyous celebration of sleepy Saturday mornings accompanied by deliciously comforting Saturday breakfasts.

The directing is beautiful, Rutger Hauer's syrupy voice-over is scrumptious, and the whole commercial is guaranteed to have you yearning for your duvet and a pack of butter.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Campaign Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency is currently ...

BI Analyst

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency in Central Lo...


£40000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: DBA, London,...

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform