Should advertisers be worried about how ITV is dealing with Phillip Schofield crisis?
As the UK’s top commercial broadcaster faces a crisis in confidence, marketing experts lay out how it should navigate the situation.
Willoughby and Schofield share a laugh on This Morning
Phillip Schofield, the long-running host of ITV’s This Morning, recently resigned from his role after admitting he had lied to the broadcaster’s top brass about what he called an “unwise, but not illegal” affair with a younger male colleague.
The fallout has already seen car dealership Arnold Clark say it will not be renewing its sponsorship of the show, while WeBuyAnyCar has dropped all ads featuring the host from its YouTube channel.
Former This Morning host Eamonn Holmes has meanwhile accused ITV of a “total cover-up”, with the claims rocking trust in the broadcaster’s execs among audiences and advertisers.
Audiences are shocked, will advertisers blink?
Andy Barr, founder and chief exec of comms firm 10 Yetis, says: “What started out as a tabloid gossip story between two (allegedly) warring presenters has turned into a classic crisis communications campaign for the ITV PR team.”
But the news narrative shifting towards the conflict between Holmes and Schofield could be a good thing for ITV, he says. “If the spat becomes personal instead of corporate, This Morning can survive and a costly rebrand won’t be needed. If more sordid details emerge and a wider group of presenters become embroiled, then this is a different story.”
The longer this story sticks around, the more damage will be done – and advertisers will be watching, Barr assures us. “In my considerable experience of crisis communications, the old adage that ‘if the story rumbles on for more than two weeks, then you are fucked’, will be true of this story too."
Laura Behan, deputy head of AV at Republic of Media, gives a media buyer perspective, explaining how businesses can be largely unmoved by the scrapes befalling the content they advertise around.
Referring to This Morning as “a staple within the TV schedule” that has become “synonymous” with Schofield and co-host Holly Willoughby, she says that it is the concept of the program that will keep viewers coming back. “Its light mid-morning magazine style, offering viewers connections, advice and news, is a proven TV show method.”
She thinks that bringing in a variety of presenters and perhaps increased prominence for Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary could keep things fresh, adding: “Phil is no longer a presenter on This Morning, so advertisers shouldn’t worry about the negativity that is associated with him rubbing on to their brand. Instead, advertisers should continue to run campaigns on the biggest commercial TV channel in the UK and in one of its most popular daytime shows.”
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While the resignation of Schofield offers a slightly new flavor of concern, ITV has previously dealt with several of its hosts falling out of favor, such as Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain and the demise of the Jeremy Kyle Show.
As ever, media buyers follow the eyeballs and they are back watching This Morning. The Monday show this week – the first after the news broke – peaked at almost one million viewers. It’s a welcome return after figures fell due to the rift that had formed between the hosts after 14 years on the air together.