TV Advertising

Does anyone know anything about how TV advertising works in the UK? I’m doing a case study for my MBA and need to know a bit about how it’s structured.

I assume there is an intermediary, some sort of advertising agency, between (say) Coca-Cola and (say) ITV. So Coca-Cola produce an advert and rather than take it directly to ITV, they go through the intermediary. So, does anyone know:

1. Who the main intermediaries are in the UK?

2. What their role is? Do they get a list of slots from ITV, etc. with a price alongside each one, and fill them accordingly with ads their clients have given them?

Or have I got this wrong somehow? I’m looking for the basic structure of the business here, not whether it’s outdated, relevant in today’s world, etc. Any help would be much appreciated.


15 thoughts on “TV Advertising

  1. Try someone like WPP investor relations department and see if they will be generous with their time and discuss business model.

  2. The ad agency is the intermediary. They make money on creative but make way more on commission “placing” the ads. They will have a department that buys the ad space and places the ad. That’s where the big juice is at

  3. What Old Canuck says, but don’t forget there are independent media buyers as well. Some companies produce their own ads – invariably bad, but sometimes in a ‘good’ way – and skip the ad agency part.

  4. Canuck and Recusant have it. The most common model is that an ad agency will have a creative dept and a media buying dept. The former will create a collection of ads with the chosen message, each tailored to the different media to be used. Media will determine the best mix of media for the message and market, buying ad space and time as appropriate.

    John Ward (hat4uk) is probably your best source of definitve info on this subject.

  5. Works the same way in most of the western world. ITV sell advertising. You can call ITV and buy ad space and they will provide limited support. But.
    1) ITV need to approve the ad for quality. If you don’t know what you’re doing, rejection is expensive (due to lost time and money) and they won’t (generally) tell you how to fix it.
    2) There are various regulatory requirements (truth in advertising etc.). Depending on where you live, that might be run by fhe TV station with the TV station taking the risk if they approve (most cases) or you may beed to submit it to an advertising approvals board.
    3) Maintaining people who know how to make TV ads is expensive and inefficient.
    Therefore, most companies will outsource to marketing and production companies, who know how to avoid the pitfalls and who maintain relationships which mean the TV stations generally give them more leeway.

    Cheap trick: call the TV station and make enquiries about an ad campaign late in the year and get invited their their new-year programming launch for, at least, a free breakfast and a preview of the coming year’s popular shows.

  6. Most TV buying is done through media planner/buyer agencies. Back in the day full service ad agencies did their own buying but brands found that buying agencies were prepared to split commissions – bear in mind that ad agency income came from a commission on ad sales. Today most creative agencies charge fees rather than give the design & copy for free on the back of ad commissions.
    The main media agencies

  7. Hi Tim

    Your university library should have access to services such as IBISWorld, which give detailed industry reports.

  8. My one involvement with TV advertising was we had an idea to sell papers (it didn’t work much, but that’s advertising for you) and we went to an agency who had the production capabilities. There was much travelling of senior execs to the meetings at the agency because, hey, it was way more fun than mundane newspapers and the bosses got to ‘pitch’ their favourite ideas for camera angles, special effects, etc (the latter often beyond the budget).

    Equally, the agency wants to do what they like to do. Scripts are written, actors availability discussed before everyone settles on something like rostrum camera zooming in on a spinning newspaper headline and no-one you’ve ever heard of playing the lead part.

    The schedule is the thing. We had no dealing with the TV station: that was the agencies sales department who no doubt skimmed off various commissions for putting the ad out at some ungodly hour as part of a ‘package’. True, everyone wants their ad to be shown in the middle of Coronation Street but the prices are often too high. You end up being shown somewhere near Corrie but more likely at the end of ‘Garden Gnomes We Have Loved’ which goes out at 4.30 in the morning.

  9. An oblique look at how some firms etc. do it is provided by these two youtube videos:

    Note that the company was several steps removed from the guy doing the work.

    Again, they look to do things on the cheap and it gives an insight into the way that these sort of things are handled.

    Advertisement agencies rarely have the talent, knowledge or skills to authoritatively talk about the product being advertised and they subcontract that to others. However they are like recruitment agencies and claim that they can do anything, anywhere, any time and then frantically scrabble around to find someone to do the necessary while creaming off the majority of the profits.

    Interpreting and being familiar with the guidelines is the main thing. That and knowing the people to contact in the TV system to get the adverts placed.

  10. @Watcher – ‘Garden Gnomes We Have Loved’ … how did I miss that? Is it repeated on Nickelodeon or somewhere else?

    Interested people want to know you know … >};o)

  11. Thanks everybody. Some good stuff in here, more than enough to start with.

    Garden Gnomes We Have Loved

    I’m with the others: when can we watch a re-run?

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