EBU Marketing Seminar
ASSERT YOUR POSITIONING: MARKETING AT
THE HEART OF PUBLIC SERVICE MEDIA
19-20 November 2009
Palais des Congrès, Marrakech, Morocco
In his welcome to the EBU/UER and to the participants, Abdel el‐Fakir of SNRT
reminded us that our business is all about people – and that all of us are wrestling
with similar big questions about how to define, deliver and promote public value in
all we do.
At a time when the preoccupation of many media professionals is to understand the
changes in our industry that are being driven by technology, we were surely right to
hold a seminar that focused almost exclusively on people. If we are to successfully
‘assert our position’ as the seminar title proposed, we need to understand who are
our audiences; to construct a clearer picture of who they are and what they want
from public service broadcasting; and to better understand the relationship between
‘them’ as the audience and ‘us’ as broadcasters.
To focus on such issues is to lead quickly to a discussion of ‘impact’ a term that, in a
time of few channels and restricted bandwidth, was often understood to be a
synonym for ratings. But today’s multi‐channel, multi‐platform world is also a multi‐
audience world and demands more subtle and sophisticated tools of measurement
than the blunt instrument of old‐fashioned ratings. It also demands a more
thoughtful analysis of what constitutes public service broadcasting. The long lists of
quotas, genres and hours that have been the traditional definitions of public service
broadcasting set out by governments no longer do the job. What do we now mean
by the phrase ‘public service broadcasting? … or should we now be talking of ‘public
service media’? … or simply ‘public value’?
Over the course of two days we covered the waterfront on these debates, from the
specific lessons to be gleaned from particular marketing campaigns to the broadest
discussion of what is the point of what we do in the twenty‐first century.
WHO ARE OUR AUDIENCES?
Appropriately enough, many of these issues were elucidated by the very first
presentation from Bruno Deblander and Laurence Lorie of RTBF. They sought to
place their organisation’s output in the larger context of all French language media in
Belgium. Bruno flagged up one of the most consistent themes of the seminar when
he told us that RTBF was thinking about how to address one very particular audience
– its own staff, what he called “our internal public”. In various forms, this issue
returned again and again – do the marketing and editorial departments understand
each other? Do they agree? Do most programme makers and commissioners
believe in the values of public service that marketing departments are seeking to
present to audiences and stakeholders? Laurence showed us a slide setting out the
mass of detailed targets and requirements that in regulatory terms define the public
service output of her channel. But, as it is for most PSBs, this is a legacy of decades
of debate and discussion that not only fails to capture the true spirit and ambition of
public service broadcasting, but sometimes actively impedes its imaginative delivery
in today’s fluid and competitive market place.
Les stratégies motivationnelles
Territoires de La Une et La Deux
Utilisation des media = échanger
avec le monde extérieur pour
enrichir sa propre réalité
Les explorateurs Les relax Utilisation des
au groupe et
media = Media
s’affirmer et se = Les intégrés
distinguer fenêtre sur le monde
Utilisation des media =
Filtrer le monde extérieur pour
conforter sa propre réalité
(available in French only)
Lotta Loosme explained how the Swedish broadcaster SVT had broken its audience
down into eight clearly defined and distinguishable segments (from A to H, as per
the slide here below).
This more nuanced portrait of their audience was helping programme makers and
commissioners focus their output to cater more accurately for the needs and
expectations of viewers ‐ but it had also produced other, unexpected, benefits for
the channel. It enabled them to realise that they did not have to attempt to reach all
the audience all the time (a perspective that was reflected later in a presentation
from BBC3) and it had highlighted the extent to which their own staff were not in
any way representative of the audience they were seeking to reach. SVT discovered
that almost half of their one hundred senior staff belonged to just one of their eight
audience segments; a segment which, statistically, represented no more than 9% of
the Swedish population. This raised a disturbing question; – rather than making
programmes that appealed to the tastes and interests of their diverse national
community, was SVT only meeting the needs of a small cross‐section of the public by
making programmes that reflected the values and aspirations of their own staff,
believing that in doing so they did in fact represent the whole country?
SVT audience compass
Adventurous & Investigative
Self expression & Image
Consciousness & Depth
Stability & Tradition
These three powerful presentations were followed by a question and answer session
chaired by Sway Media’s Martin Poole. There was a strong consensus from the
whole panel:‐ we need to be much more attuned to the fact that we have a variety
of different audiences; we must become much more sophisticated in how we find
out who they are and what they want; we need to be aware of our ‘internal
audience’ – our colleagues – and guard against the delusion that they alone can be
arbiters of what a much more varied external audience wants and expects. In a
nutshell, we can no longer regard our audiences as passive consumers – we need to
engage with them. “Don’t underestimate your audience” warned Lotta.
And perhaps we should add – ‘don’t overestimate your own understanding of what
your audiences really want’! Martin finished with the question – do we need a fresh
vision for public service media? And, if so, how are we to think through the re‐
branding that will be needed?
Wim Möllman from SF in Switzerland showed us how his organisation had used Sinus
Milieus techniques to undertake a similar exercise to that undertaken by Lotta and
her colleagues. By analysing the values of its audience in terms of their personal
interests ‐ work, family, income and leisure pursuits ‐ rather than the conventional
broadcast categories of age groups, and by then cross‐referencing this data with a
broader category of individual outlook (‘traditional’, ‘modern’, ‘open to change’) SF
had segmented its viewers into quite distinct groups as a useful aid to planning
programme output, scheduling and marketing.
The consequences of thinking about audience in these segmented terms was then
explored by Anna Priest from the UK’s BBC3 and Clare Phillips of Red Bee Media who
had worked with BBC staff in refining and redefining the channel’s audience profile.
They had a simple proposition; ‐ in a world of expanding viewer choice broadcasters
must re‐balance the equation between variety of output and focus. They summed
this up with the statement “Clarity means sacrifice”. Applied to BBC3’s output this
approach had meant, in essence, that the channel focused on the 80% it did best and
abandoned the remaining 20%. In re‐thinking BBC3’s position they had gone in the
opposite direction to much current marketing and had focused on the channel brand
rather than individual programme brands. Their argument was that when the
Electronic Programme Guide offers viewers an abundance of choices, there is no
need for individual channels to do the same. The key issue then becomes having a
distinct channel brand, able to give audiences an expectation of what individual
programmes on that channel will be like.
Further presentations explored other initiatives that had helped new thinking in
channel branding. Olivia Olivi and Eglantine Dupuis told us about ARTE’s highly
successful summer seasons which had not only succeeded in its primary purpose of
“rejuvenating the image of the channel” but had also “re‐invigorated the audience” –
a valuable public service by any reckoning! The campaign had been run on every
possible platform and had a strong real‐world presence with public events and ‘give‐
aways’ such as T‐shirts. The ‘summers’ had been very effective in increasing the
channel’s audiences but also in building the strength and distinctiveness of its brand.
Rebecka Ioannidis and Johan Ljungstrom of SR gave us a presentation of how they
had taken a radio station that, although well respected and well known, lacked, in
their words, “energy, modernity and joy”. Research had shown that more or less
their entire target audience used online services and so they had embraced the idea
of promoting access to radio online and particularly while travelling to and from
work, with the slogan “The fastest way to get to work”. Amongst other outcomes of
the campaign had been a 35% increase in visitors to the SR website.
Some of these issues were re‐visited at the end of the seminar in a series of break‐
out workshops, one of which considered the question ’How to build a killer brand’.
Martin Poole and Peter Claes from VRT used the example of Radio Romania as an
organisation that had re‐thought its identity, but had done so by undertaking a
rigorous review of its mission and brand values. They then invited participants at the
session to think about their own organisation’s brand values and the relationship
between brand values and brand identity. The essential points to emerge from the
session re‐enforced much of what had gone on during the seminar;‐ be prepared to
sacrifice for the sake of clarity; choose the words you use to describe your brand
values with great care; think ahead; don’t try to do everything at once – better to
focus on one challenge a year; and, most of all, never forget that your channel’s
brand is what the audience – not you ‐ perceive it to be.
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY ‘PUBLIC SERVICE’?
Here is a debate that will continue for as long as broadcasting continues! In giving
their presentations, several of our speakers referred to that well‐established mantra
that almost every public service broadcaster has written into its constitution – to
inform, educate and entertain. When broadcasting was a relatively simple one‐way
flow from studio to home, these three pillars were easy enough to recognise and
describe. But as communication technologies continue to converge seamlessly we
find ourselves moving from the term ‘public service broadcasting’ to ‘public service
media’ and, finally perhaps, in a society in which media is becoming all‐pervasive, to
‘public service’ or ‘public value’. Our speakers and panellists offered a variety of
Risto Vuorensola’s view of the central task for Finland’s YLE was to “influence
society” and he gave us examples of a public service campaign YLE had undertaken
to reduce bicycle thefts in Helsinki. Risto also suggested that one of the important
tasks for public service media now and in the future will be to constantly ask the
question “Do we have any alternatives to Microsoft?” – in other words, to actively
ensure that there is always publicly owned space in the online world and that access
to it is not completely controlled by a few giant commercial bodies.
How can we develop the co-operation between TV
and the internet..
How can we make the internet users to get interested
in television content…
How can we make the internet and TV content as a
consistent package ..
CONTENT IS - MARKETING - IS CONTENT
Jonathan Simon from the UK’s Channel 4 thought one of the central questions for
public service broadcasters was how to keep people watching serious quality content
when the airwaves are full of easy, undemanding viewing.
For RTBF, perhaps particularly mindful of its role as a French language station in a
multilingual society, original production was as important a part of its public service
as the obligation to inform, educate and entertain. So was it with ARTE, whose
concern was how to rejuvenate its image and bring more dynamism to the channel
without undermining the positive criteria of the channel, trust and quality.
Peter Claes from the Belgian station VRT considered the defining values for public
service media as being “quality, sustainability and the community spirit”. His slogan
for VRT was “by everyone, for everyone, on all platforms, free of commercial and
The common theme to many of these definitions and case studies is that,
increasingly, the role of public service media is seen as being not simply to reflect the
world to its audiences but to play a part in shaping it – challenging, inspiring,
catalysing public actions, whether the outcome can be measured in greater
attendance at art galleries, a more active engagement by citizens with issues of
public concern ‐ or a very specific outcome such as fewer bicycles being stolen.
This, in turn, took us straight back to the two other questions that dominated the
seminar, first; ‐ how can we formulate practical measures of success if our impact is
to be gauged by changes in society rather than simply the number of eyeballs
watching our programmes? A second question, perhaps the core question, is how
do we describe and explain these larger social purposes – not just to our audiences
but to our colleagues who commission, make and cost our output and who may be,
in varying degrees, sceptical of such apparently ephemeral measures of value.
Underlying all these discussions is the recognition that our audiences are changing;
people’s view of media and how they interact with it is in a state of rapid flux. At
every turn this poses difficult questions for long‐established public broadcasters and
two of our contributors touched on what is perhaps the most sensitive question of
all;‐ impartiality. If comprehensive news provision lies at the heart of all public
service media, then impartiality is the foundation on which all public service news
rests. But Peter Cowley from Endemol pointed out that, used to an unprecedented
level of interaction and engagement with media, “people now believe what their
friends say more than what the TV news says”. Chris Gottlieb took up this theme in
a presentation describing how the BBC had re‐vamped some of its news coverage in
an attempt to keep more viewers informed about domestic and international news,
even if they would not normally choose to watch a news programme. Brief 90‐
second news bulletins had been dropped into the gaps between popular
programmes, each one featuring a news reader but without the normal
paraphernalia of a TV news studio. The selected items had been chosen on the same
basis as the content of the established mainstream BBC news programmes – the
range of issues should be serious, important and wide‐ranging;‐ this was not
celebrity or gossip‐dominated ‘news lite’. Extensive market research had revealed a
number of common responses, none of them very surprising, for example; the
perception that news programmes were boring; that they focused on nothing but
bad news and disasters; and that they assumed a high level of engagement from
their audiences – many viewers found the news quite simply incomprehensible. One
of the BBC research respondents had said of the news “I don’t even know what
they’re talking about.” But the same respondents had some rather more surprising
observations;‐ they wanted to know why the news readers never offered their own
views of what they were reporting. Instead, they seemed to have no opinions about
anything and that made them both boring and, perhaps slightly suspect – why had
they been hired to read the news if they had no opinions of their own?
The good news: news matters
• N&CA have important roles to play for this audience
- They like news… it’s called ‘What’s going on’
• The BBC brand brings a guarantee of trust, accuracy &
authority, which they value
Here is a question of genuinely momentous significance for the whole of European
broadcasting;‐ how can public service media maintain its vital core function of
presenting not just news but impartial news when audiences, especially younger
audiences, seem to regard impartiality with mounting scepticism? To abandon
impartiality cannot be the answer; the degradation and manipulation of news on
some of the big US radio networks demonstrates what lies down that road. But to
find ways of winning and retaining audiences, especially at a time when traditional
newsgathering is becoming almost prohibitively expensive, will demand all our
imagination and skill.
Some of these topics fed through to another of the workshop session at the end of
the seminar:‐ ‘Public service broadcasting has no future’. Unsurprisingly, given who
we are, the consensus was that it did have a future! But it’s not as simple as it was.
So far as the audience is concerned ‘public service’ is a term to describe particular
content, not a whole channel; and on that basis there is a huge – indeed a growing
volume of public service content to be found on every platform. We discussed the
possible benefits of a single hi‐profile platform where the best of it might be grouped
together – not You‐tube but perhaps EBU‐tube?
IMPACT AND REACH
Measuring public service broadcasting has always been fraught with difficulty.
‘Impact’ and ‘reach’ are two popular terms but what do they mean? Of course for a
generalist public service channel reach has been, and continues to be, important.
But is its importance declining in a multi‐channel world in which audiences are much
more fragmented? In any case, measuring reach may do no more than provide some
false comfort in a climate of declining ratings – to reach a broad spread of the
population may be valuable, but is not the same thing as reaching a large number of
the population; the two must be presented in some kind of balance with each other.
Impact is another tricky word, not least because it is open to such subjective
interpretation. Impact used to mean much the same as ratings – the bigger the
audience the bigger the impact in a world of restricted channels. Now, in a world in
which audiences are more segmented it becomes important to know what impact a
particular programme or series may have had on someone’s life away from the TV.
Jonathon Simon explained how the UK’s Channel 4 approached this issue with focus
groups and detailed market research that invited viewers to say whether
programmes had made them see the world differently. In his view, the ever‐
expanding range of channels had the effect of making audiences lazy. Given a choice
between ‘easy viewing’ and a more challenging option, viewers were more likely to
turn away form the more demanding programme – an option that was not so readily
available in a time of channel scarcity and much greater market dominance by public
service broadcasting. However, one piece of research showed that, comparing like
for like, Channel 4’s original commissioned programmes had won bigger audiences
and enjoyed greater impact than similar acquired programmes.
For Channel 4 this vindicated their commitment to ‘distinctiveness’ as one of the
core qualities they aimed for in original programming – a good lesson for public
service broadcasters everywhere and a view echoed by Riso Vuorensola who
reminded us that “content is marketing”.
New approach to public value
Channel 4 evolving from “public
service channel to public service
“Obligation to explain to viewers
and stakeholders not only what
we are doing but why”
New “basket of measures” to
reflect evolving role of Channel 4
and to provide enhanced
Published as part of 2008 Annual
Jonathan explored some of these issues in more depth in his workshop on ‘Audience
Measurement: does it help?’ There was a recognition that no single ‘killer metric’
exists, or is likely to, that will prove to be an unarguable and durable measure of
public service value. But it is clear that qualitative research, typically conducted in
focus groups, has an increasingly important role to play in helping us define public
service and public value in the new world. On a very practical note, it was pointed
out that having a simple and very distinctive, rather than generic title for content
makes it much easier to track its impact online using measures such as google
analytics or buzz metrics. And, finally, someone drew attention to the fact that
Nokia has one of the most sophisticated approaches to identifying audience
segmentation. Perhaps a representative of the company should be invited to a
Two prominent figures form the commercial media world, Peter Cowley of Endemol
and Nicole Yershon from the global advertising agency Ogilvy reminded us that
anyone and everyone working in media today is struggling to come to terms with the
pace of change. Peter identified the four big issues with which Endemol was most
concerned as ‐ technology changes, audience behaviour changes, the search for new
business models and what he called ‘the democratisation of production’. He
emphasised the message we had already heard in several of the presentations – the
replacement of ‘breadth’ as a key value of traditional broadcasting channels with
‘focus’ as the key value in a crowded marketplace. Peter expressed it as
“broadcasters who understand that they can’t do everything on every platform will
be the winners”.
Peter’s messages were re‐enforced by Nicole Yershon. Speaking of her role as the
director and animator of an ideas and technology lab at Ogilvy, she was aware of the
danger of being seduced by the possibilities of new technology when the really
difficult question is how to make the transition from a great idea to a great revenue‐
generating idea; moving from ‘thinking’ to ‘doing’ as she put it.
She, too. echoed several of the other presentations when she told us she felt some
of her most intractable communication problems were internal; yet another
reminder that there is little value in attempting to market public service values to
audiences if they have not been bought and fully understood by the internal
audience – our colleagues.
SO … HOW DO WE ‘ASSERT OUR POSITIONING’?
At the end of the seminar it was impossible not to have been impressed by the
imagination and energy with which public service broadcasters are seeking new ways
to understand the needs, wants and expectations of their audiences, to find new
ways of engaging with them, and to re‐think what public value means and how it can
be expressed in societies where media is all‐pervasive and highly interactive.
The relation: government - PSB
Government AV offer Reach Added value
PSB Production Market Real Brands
In presentations, workshops and in the question and answer sessions over the two
days, the point was frequently made that we need a fresh vision for public service.
That’s true. And one of the ways to do it must surely be to continue holding
seminars like this, in which good practice can be shared, in which values can be
debated and in which the language and the actions by which public service
broadcasters assert their position in the market can be tested and refined.