The Issues

01 February 2016
As 2015 came to a close there were some major changes that affected the media landscape moving into 2016. Not only are advertisers’ audiences becoming more and more adaptable and unpredictable in their behaviour, advertisers are doing all they can to predict what they will do next.


In 2015, perhaps the biggest issue raised was the BBC Charter renewal and what impact a change from its current guise will have on broadcasting as a whole. The BBC is also in the process of relocating BBC3 to online only. The persistent rumours that a takeover for ITV is in the offing and that Channel 4 could be privatised in the near future. In addition, Sky have made impressive technological advancements with the introduction of a service which allows advertisers to advertise to its 10 million plus registered users across all devices, seamlessly. And finally, BT won the rights to show all 350 fixtures of the Champions League, each season from 2015 for 3 years, showing a clear statement of intent in changing the landscape of sports broadcasting

2016 will be less of an evolution but more of a reformation. 2016 promises to be another interesting year for broadcasting with Artificial Intelligence (AI) becoming more and more mainstream and the convergence between TV and digital becoming ever closer.


By the end of 2015 ad blocking had developed into a major issue, as it threatens to reduce the channels available for advertisers to reach prospects and customers. What is a publisher problem today will be an advertiser problem in the future. ISBA is leading the way to find a solution, organising meetings and publishing guidance, engaging with the ad blockers and working closely with publishers, Google and the IAB. ISBA believes that the advertising industry needs to explain the ‘value exchange’ to users, whereby professionally-curated content they seek is subsidised, if not entirely paid for, by the ads. Lighter, more creative, non-invasive adverts are needed to stop users ad blocking.

ISBA members sit on JICWEBS’ UK cross-industry ‘Anti - Fraud Commercial Working Party’, which has made good progress in encouraging companies to apply for the seal which confirms that their processes further reduce the risk of fraudulent ads being served.

Public Affairs

2016 presents a series of challenges to advertising; most of which will turn out to be the threats already on the agenda.

But our biggest threat will probably be events.

  • The world economy (BRIC) is slowing, not restarting, at a time when the UK could do with growing markets. In a climate of caution will there be the marketing budgets to spend on advertising? If not then UK media income will be under the cosh and the landscape may change towards a dispersed media landscape more quickly than we would suppose.
  • An overwhelming political attention to the EU referendum. Together with political concern over the Middle East and the asylum issue.

Threats do not disappear just because public attention is on other issues. In fact experience suggests it is just the time to inflict bad news.

Obesity and children

The pressure is on from the NGOs, Health officials and from officials in No 10. Even the Chief Medical Officer has threatened a sugar tax if advertising is not curbed along with a longer list of demands. CAP is about to go to public consultation of the use of nutrient profiling to restrict advertising of HFSS products to children. If CAP eventually approves the plans it will have an impact on newsprint, billboards, cinema, and of course paid for ads on line as well as advertisers own sites.  A big move in 2016.

Campaigners are also demanding a 9pm watershed on HFSS TV ads.  What is certain is that there will be action, either a cooperative approach working with government, or if that is rejected by Ministers a legislative imposition. In effect an advertising ban to children and teenagers.


A wider battle field is opening up with the next push being against all of us as citizens for weight gain. The Public Health movement has its eyes not just on children but on us, our diets, portion size and especially on sugar content in the diet. It may not be for the coming year but the demands will surface for marketing restrictions.


New advice on weekly units should not be seen in isolation from the Public Health agenda to de normalise alcohol. Marketing restrictions are already strict in the UK and the industry led self-regulation of marketing is widely acclaimed. Advertising and marketing will remain in the firing line alongside our diets, presenting a target for ad restrictions.

EU rules

Whilst UK attention may be on our relationship with the EU normal business will continue in Brussels and Strasburg, at least to the extent that the economy and the refuge crisis allows.

Much of our law governing advertising and marketing comes directly from EU Directives and Regulations. This year we can expect the finalisation of the data protection rules which have been gestating since 2012. This will impact on data collection and use.  Alongside this is the current rejection of the Safe Harbour agreement with the USA.  In general 2016 will be a year of tighter controls.

We will also see more guidance on Green Claims under the consumer directive, in this case mostly common sense and reflecting UK practice.

The Commission has just announced a complete review of consumer law, including the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.

The plans to revisit the TV rules (Audio Visual Media Services Directive) is planned in 2016 with a focus on how the rules can be rolled out to cover the internet, not just ‘TV like’ services.


2015 was another busy year for the thriving Consultancy and Best Practice Department team; collectively handling a total of 2222 interactions with ISBA members across all sectors and services; 70% of our membership base. 

The 4 consultants had involvement in 82 agency pitch projects; in-depth pitch consultancy is on the rise with the continued success of clients willing to experiment with Alternative Pitch Processes under ISBA’s guidance (link to ).  The most significant shift in comparison to the previous year is related to the volume of pitches in the ‘digital’ arena which more than halved (from 30 in 2013/14) to 12 pitches managed in 2014/15 – could this indicate that the digital bubble has burst for marketers and that they now have the right partners on board – or is this just a temporary blip before the next new big things appears in the digital space on which they need advice?

34 out of 82 of those pitches were categorised as ‘other’ as they did not fall within the standard agency discipline descriptors – these spanned new areas such as: Webcasting, e-commerce, retail/shopper marketing, experiential, customer magazines, events, enterprise selling, customer journey, innovation, internal communications, roster reviews, developing in-house agency capabilities, and sports marketing.

The Key trends: frequent requests for advice and ISBA guidance centred around: content marketing & strategy; Evolving shape of marketing structure and talent, impact on agency requirements; Pros & Cons of setting up in-house agency resource; Media transparency & contract design; Evolving agency marketplace; search & SEO.

Client / Agency Relationships: ISBA identified a significant decline in attention to the importance of proper agency briefing, this prompted ISBA & the IPA to host Good Brief Week (link to Blog

Future Forecasting: in 2015 we launched the Media 2020 research; helping clients prepare for a very different media ecosystem by 2020 (link to report:'s-new ); new framework contracts were launched for both retainer and project based relationships these templates reflect the scalable relationships clients are entering into with their agencies; PFA VII which celebrates its 20th year of tracking client / agency remuneration trends and realities is expected to launch its findings mid-2016.

Trends spotting: the ‘Talent Revolution’ – clients are losing faith in the dependability of external talent and are taking steps to home grow their own from grass roots; building in house capabilities is a huge trend. Agile marketing will continue to impact how advertisers structure their marketing teams and the thirst for knowledge continues.

ISBA Membership

ISBA membership continues to remain buoyant with 66 companies joining in the last two years from a varietyof sectors including food, finance, gambling, pharmaceutical and the charity sector.  Companies join in recognition of the role ISBA plays in representing advertisers in the industry, in Regulatory and Legislative developments in the EU/UK.  In addition, many seek the support of ISBA’s consultancy department with their agency relationships, pitches and insight/knowledge on the market place. ISBA is in an unparalleled place to offer impartial/ confidential advice which members value.

The agenda on capability grows from year to year with over 450 members logging into our webinars, over 500 attending networking events across London, Leeds and Edinburgh with plans to hold one in Manchester in 2016. The ISBA training programme provides advertiser only training and provides real life training with the opportunity to learn from other delegates during the discussions on the day. Numbers are kept small to encourage interaction.

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