ITV Gala shows that joyful TV entertainment matters

ITV brings the advertising and television worlds together at my favourite evening of the year, the annual ITV Gala, tonight.

We can be certain it’s going to be a great evening, and certainty is in short supply at the moment.

We are wading through new waters both politically and economically. The Brexit campaign and the crazy run-up to the US election were worryingly characterised by increasing amounts of what is now widely known as "truthiness" – arguments or assertions "from the gut" or because it "feels right" without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination or facts.

It reminds me of something a much cleverer person than I once said: "You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts." This has never been more relevant for today’s media and advertising industry.

The market environment in which we operate is constantly changing; there is crystal ball gazing, competing claims and no shortage of speculation on where TV is and where it’s heading.

And I think it’s incumbent upon the TV industry to take the lead and spearhead a new movement for clarity and certainty, and just… well… cut through the truthiness.  

So, tonight at the Gala, once we’ve rolled out the red carpet, we’ll be sharing some gold standard truths about TV and ITV, and giving some certainty to our clients about what they can expect from us in the year ahead.

We’ll be looking to the future of TV. Actually, TV’s future is already here.

While many commentators talk about what it may look like, we have been getting on with shaping it.

Audiences are happier than they have ever been and remain really excited about TV – quite simply, it has never been a better time to be a viewer, whether they’re watching on the biggest screen in the house or whilst on the move.

TV is going everywhere. The ITV Hub has gone from strength to strength since we announced its launch this time last year.

It now has 16 million registered users. Over half of all 16-24 year olds in the UK have signed up. And they are watching ITV programmes across 29 different platforms and on every screen size.

Who said young people weren’t watching broadcast TV anymore? The first episode of the new series of I’m A Celebrity ten days ago took a huge 62% share of 16-34s.

There were 2.8 million 16-34s watching, which was almost 400,000 more than last year.

ITV has shown the most-watched soap, entertainment, sport and current affairs programme on any channel so far this year and we plan to continue to deliver these big audiences powered by a scintillating programme slate for 2017.

It will come as no surprise that Love Island will be back for another series. The hit show of the summer is living proof of the enduring relationship TV has with young viewers. We will also be looking specifically at the prospects and opportunities for advertising in the next 12 months.

It was the marketing pioneer John Wanamaker who famously spoke about not being sure about which half of his advertising was working. He may be turning in his grave at the current issues around ad-blockers, viewability and non-human traffic.

We will show tonight at the Gala what parts of your campaign can be relied upon to work your brand.

And we will be looking at TV as a power for good. The role that the TV plays in people’s lives is as important as ever and it has huge power to do positive things for society.

It brings us together, educates us and keeps us informed in a trusted and impartial way. TV makes us happy, whether laughing at Ant and Dec on I’m A Celebrity, playing along with The Chase or singing to The X Factor. Providing people with joyful TV entertainment is not a frivolous ambition.

It also inspires people to get out and do things too. All broadcasters use TV’s ability to inspire action to launch their own appeals and campaigns, and this type of initiative is funded to a great extent by advertising.

Commercial TV can achieve positive things: Look at Channel 4’s work with Maltesers to champion disability or the Sky Academy helping young people unlock their potential and ITV and The National Lottery launching I Am Team GB to welcome home the country’s Olympic heroes.

If you agree that commercial TV achieves positive things, advertising should be recognised for its contribution to our lives and the inspirational work that TV and advertising creates.

Kelly Williams is the managing director of commercial at ITV

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