On 1 August 1977 the Sales Department began operating a new, computerised system which revolutionises the exacting business of negotiating advertising time on television. Called ‘Enterprise’, the system minimises paperwork, improves internal administration and offers clients what Thames believes is the fastest and most flexible time-buying service in the world.
Unlike earlier systems which simply monitored the availability of airtime and administered the bookings, ‘Enterprise’ also provides accurate and continuous evaluation of the many factors which affect campaign planning: audience composition; ratings patterns; the impact of programme changes; the current demand on the time available, which governs its price; and even the existence of bookings for competitive products. So clients can use the service to plan their campaigns before placing a firm schedule booking.
Over 300 different programs are built into the system with 60 million characters of information on bookings, breaks, programmes, ratings, products and agencies. It is run on EMI’s multi-million pound computer installation at Hayes in Middlesex, which is linked by four data lines to Thames’ Euston offices. At Euston, there are twenty ‘work stations’, operated by sales executives each with a visual display unit, keyboard and thermal printer. In addition, order confirmations and management reports are automatically printed out.
As well as being a breakthrough in time-buying, ‘Enterprise’ represents a new relationship between people and technology in the work of media evaluation. Since its inception several other ITV companies have expressed interest in how the system might be applied to selling airtime in their own areas.