Trendspotting #3

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The Independent Online

Choice, choice and more choice has been the mantra of the media deregulation that has been in vogue for the last 10 years. This means that while there were two commercial radio stations in London in 1986, there are now 20, and another city-wide station is due along in the autumn. The increase in stations has pushed commercial radio's share of listening in London from under 30 per cent in 1986 to around 60 per cent during 1996 - well ahead of the national average. But all it is doing is slicing the salami ever thinner; total radio listening including the BBC has declined by 13 per cent since 1992.


Not only is it good to talk; it is also extremely good business to make the ads for a rich telephone company worried about increasing competition. Abbott Mead Vickers has moved into the number one advertising agency spot ahead of Saatchi and Saatchi mainly thanks to its client BT's massive advertising spend. AMV's billings grew nearly a quarter to pounds 306m last year, according to the annual advertising spend figures from ACN Meal published last week. BT's advertising spend is estimated to have doubled to almost pounds 200m in 1996. To put this in perspective, ponder this - the whole car industry only spends about pounds 500m a year.


That the rich get richer as the poor get poorer is a truth uncomfortably close to home for many in Britain, but now it is coming home to advertisers. Their cherished demographic groups - ABC1, C2 and DE - have altered because of the changes to society over the last two generations. C2s, the skilled manual workers who were a key mass market because they trusted old-fashioned brand names, have fallen from 38 per cent of the population in the Sixties to 23 per cent now, according to research by the Henley Centre.


Whether you're tempted to drive into them or not, the Conservatives are increasingly convinced by the power of poster advertising. The party has spent around pounds 5m on poster advertising since last summer with more planned. This is up from just pounds 4m in the whole 1992 general election and pounds 1m in the 1987 election. As money has moved on to posters, it has been moving out of newspapers. In 1992, the Tories placed 48 ads in the national press compared with 217 in 1987. Labour is moving the same way - it placed 102 press ads in 1987 and only 65 in 1992. Labour spent pounds 1.5m on posters in 1992 and is expected to spend pounds 2.5m-pounds 3m this time around.


The true trendsetters in media are children. The way the little telly addicts go now, we all go tomorrow - just look at the popularity of presenters Ant and Dec. More worrying for ITV and Channel 4 is that they are moving away from terrestrial television a lot faster than adults. The percentage of children watching commercial terrestrial television in the mornings - a key time for advertisers targeting the little one's pocket money - fell from 70 per cent to 44 per cent last year. Research company SMRC found that 60 per cent of seven to 14-year-olds watch TV in the mornings. Paul McCann