Trendspotting #10

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The Independent Online
l C4 DIGS INTO THE BLACK GOLD

Channel 4's big summer push will be for its Alan Bleasdale drama Melissa. You might think the channel sticks with Alan Bleasdale's big drama serials because of its remit to produce alternative, challenging drama. Chances are it does but it also makes very good business sense. Bleasdale's last big outing for the channel, Jake's Progress, drew an average 3.2m viewers and a 20 per cent ratings share. That is double what the channel usually achieves and brought in lots of the housewives and 25- to 44-years-olds that the channel, and more importantly its advertisers, cannot always reach. The boy from the black stuff can justify his poster campaigns which is why they like him.

l SOOPER MAN LANDS ON ITV

At the other end of the drama scale is Jilly Cooper. Her The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, in three hour-long parts, will be one of ITV's big ideas for the summer. As Zenith on TV points out, her Riders in May 1993 brought in 11 million viewers without any poster advertising at all thank you very much.

l CABLE STRETCHES PAST 40PC

While much of the country and the national press focus on the ups and downs in viewing share for Channel 5, elsewhere in the television world time spent viewing satellite and cable television in subscriber homes crept over the psychologically important 40 per cent mark, according to Media Week. Satellite and cable viewing has stuck around 33 per cent in the homes that have had it for some time, but the increase proves that the pay channels do take more viewing time as more of them come on line. Otherwise the economics of new launches would be even more suicidal than it is.

l THE FAMILY LIVES AT THE CHECKOUT

Those who deconstruct advertising in universities and colleges on the country's countless media studies course often bewail the socially conservative images of the world employed to sell goods. Advertising rarely reflects a multi-cultural world or even the breakdown in the family. The reason for that, advertisers say, is that accuracy or society is none of their business - theirs is making money. Recent research shows that 87 per cent of consumer spending is by households living as a family and 85 per cent of all food and grocery shopping is by families. That disproportionate hold on the consumer wallet by families explains why we will continue to see happy families in all those Oxo ads.

l COLD COMFORT FOR GIN

Until last year spirits advertisers had never used television to advertise, fearing a ban from the authorities rather than self-regulation if they did. When years of long-term decline followed as young people lost the taste for spirits, something eventually had to be done and there was a mad rush on to television by the likes of Teacher's Scotch and Gordon's gin. But television has not proved to be quite the simple cure-all advertisers have always believed. Teachers doubled its advertising budget to pounds 2m and promptly saw sales fall by a whopping 29 per cent during the second half of 1996 according to Marketing Week. Meanwhile, according to its rival Marketing, Gordon's gin is increasing its advertising budget this year because of the success of its television campaign in London, which pushed up sales by 11 per cent. A key element in Gordon's success was not just its naked-man-in-a-straw ad, but the fact that it gave away lots of ice cube holders and glasses to London barmen and told them to serve gin cold.

Paul McCann

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