Claire Beale on Advertising

No prizes for guessing why children's TV programming is now in crisis

Satisfaction, number 1: being able to say "told you so". Children's TV programming is in crisis, the television watchdog Ofcom moaned last week. Too many imports, too many cartoons, not enough diversity or investment. Told you so, said adland.

Told you so, time and time again. But did you listen? Too busy giving ear to the anti-advertising loudmouths obsessed with blaming adland for making kids fat. Never mind the national sell-off of school playing fields, the calorific crap that constitutes cheap school dinners, or push-over parents who can't say no to pester-power. No, blame everything on advertising, why don't you: easy target, and there might be some votes in it.

So they blamed it on advertising and banned some of it. Since the summer, any product high in salt, sugar or fat cannot be advertised on TV when a high proportion of children are watching. And so there was the writing. On the wall. When Ofcom banned "junk food" advertising, it trampled over the economics of commercial television.

You can't slash the amount of ad money broadcasters can make from children's TV, and still expect them to make lots of original, stimulating programming for our offspring. Commercial TV doesn't work like that. It works like this: broadcasters make programmes that attract audiences that advertisers want to advertise to. So advertisers advertise. And broadcasters use the ad money to make more programmes that attract audiences that advertisers want to advertise to. Ad infinitum. Simple, huh? Stop the advertisers advertising, and you stop the money for programme investment.

OK, that's simplistic. But there was never any doubt in advertising and media minds that banning ads from kids programming would harm the quality and quantity of that programming. Commercial channels exist to be commercial. If something doesn't make money, they won't do it.

Mind you, the ban only came into force a matter of months ago; the decline in investment and care in children's programming – on the main terrestrial channels particularly – kicked in long before. It's not a direct cause and effect from the Ofcom ban – the smartest advertisers in the so-called junk-food category saw the way things were heading quite some time ago; they might not have anticipated the full extent of the current ban, but they recognised the changing climate and shifted their marketing tack away from targeting children, on television at least.

So kids programming hasn't been a particularly lucrative genre for the mainstream commercial broadcasters, particularly with such tough competition from CBeebies and CBBC, and the raft of children's satellite channels and websites. But if the BBC is doing such a fine job for our kids, should we worry that standards are slipping elsewhere? Of course.

For starters, competition almost always keeps standards high; without decent children's programming in the commercial sector, the BBC will find it harder to maintain the quality of its output. Look at the current debate about BBC1's daytime schedule: with rival broadcasters toning down kids programming and gunning for housewife audiences, the BBC is thinking of shifting its kids' shows off BBC1 so that it can compete head-on for the grown-up audience.

Basically, whether it makes commercial sense or not, children deserve intelligent, original, educational and culturally diverse programming to eat their tea to. And, of course, there are still companies that want to advertise in a quality children's-programming environment. Heck, some of them might even want to sell our kids good food.

Satisfaction, number 2: few things in adland are as gratifying as a firm two-fingered gesture to a client that has dumped your agency. M&C Saatchi has just delivered a perfectly executed gesture of that sort to its old British Airways client, with its new television ad for the luxury business airline Silverjet.

I wrote about the BA ad account a couple of weeks ago. The airline moved its advertising to Bartle Bogle Hegarty in 2005 after 23 years with the Saatchi brothers' agencies; now BBH has just unleashed its first brand campaign for the airline, to much criticism. So it is with sweetly perfect timing that M&C Saatchi and its Immediate Sales subsidiary this week unveil their first work for Silverjet, a British airline with a small fleet of 767s flying between London, New York and Dubai. And its new campaign is a full-on homage to/piss-take of the famous BA ads that the Saatchis made in the Eighties.

Remember the iconic BA "Face" campaign from 1989? A cast of a thousand students were choreographed to make a Picasso-inspired face, set in motion to an aria from Delibes's Lakmé and directed by Hugh Chariots of Fire Hudson. Now, Hudson and the M&C Saatchi team have been reunited for the Silverjet ad. Same director, same location (LA and Utah), but this time, just a cast of four to make up the face. But then, this is not "the world's favourite airline": Silverjet is just hoping to be the airline of "a select few".

With an in-flight menu by Le Caprice, award-winning flat beds, fashionable carbon-neutral credentials, and, clearly, an advertising sense of humour, Silverjet could become adland's business airline of choice. At least for those without their own private jet.

Satisfaction, number 3: how smug the Labour Party marketers must feel watching the Tories scrabbling round for advertising advisers as speculation about the election mounts. David Cameron's attempts to recruit an ad agency have met with a lukewarm response from usually pitch-hungry agencies. Last week, both of the main political parties appointed media agencies (MindShare for Labour, PHD for the Conservatives), but David Cameron still seems embarrassingly short of advertising image-makers.

All right, a couple of old hands at M&C Saatchi are on board with the Tories. But the agency insists, somewhat sheepishly, that they're advising in a personal capacity rather than as agency commandos.

As well as PHD, Cameron has recruited a small agency called Goodstuff to provide some strategic media insight, but you can't help but think that all this is peeing in the wind without a big creative idea to hang it all on. Mind you, the problem seems to be that adland rather suspects that even with a big idea, Cameron's party is peeing in the wind. And no-one wants to back a loser.

The issue lies with the Tory brand. Great advertising needs to be built on a solid brand proposition, and – even after Blackpool – the Tories still don't have one.

Blair's Labour might have gone too far in bringing branding into politics (something that Saatchis' "Not flash, just Gordon" line for Labour seems to acknowledge), but packaging policies for attention-deficient voters is right up adland's street. The danger is that, now the Tories have scraped together some policies, there won't be any experts on hand to help sell them.

Beale's best in show sony bravia (Fallon)

It will probably become the done thing in critical advertising circles to lament the slow decline in Sony Bravia's ads from the stunning first pinnacle of Balls, through the interesting but not-so-good Paint to the OK Play-Doh.

Bollocks to that. Fallon's third Bravia ad, unleashed with meticulous planning last Friday, is a really fine commercial, intriguing, compelling, a piece of art that sells hard. Better than "paint", for sure, and way ahead of virtually every other TV ad.

It has 200 primary-coloured bunnies clay-mating around New York as daily life continues in bemusement around them. Created by Fallon's resident genius Juan Cabral, directed by Frank Budgen, and with a superb soundtrack from The Rolling Stones – "She's a Rainbow".

Like its predecessors, this ad required precision, scrupulous attention to detail and a host of craftsmen and women working at the top of their game. It's the sort of ad that gives the industry a good name; making advertising is not like making widgets, and (good) ads are not commodities that can be bashed out by whichever agency offers to do it cheapest. As a celebration of craft, of quality, Play-Doh is bang on brand for Bravia.

Quibbles: I love the romping bunnies, but not the purple iceberg that pops up in the middle of the ad. And the cubes of colour at the end are rather smudgy-dirty. But then, I wasn't watching on a Bravia. I wished I had been, so job done.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Ashdown Group: .NET Developer : ASP.NET , C# , MVC , web development

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits - see advert: Ashdown Group: .N...

Guru Careers: 3D Package Designer / 3D Designer

£25 - 30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an exceptional 3D Package Designer / 3...

Guru Careers: Interior Designer

£Competitive: Guru Careers: We are seeking a strong Middleweight / Senior Inte...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing