BBC sticker campaign raises a laugh 

24 April 2023

BBC South logo, BBCtv SOUTH logotype, slogan: Beware of imitations!

The BBC South car sticker.


From the Reading Evening Post for 19 December 1981

THE BBC today officially declared war on TVS (Television South), the new ITV company which goes on the air in the Thames Valley on New Year’s Day.

In an astounding move, unprecedented in its history, the BBC is issuing 10,000 car stickers bearing the message: “BBC TV South – Beware of Imitations.”

This move hails the start of an intensive campaign by the Corporation to promote BBC South by meeting the new ITV company head-on.

However, one of the first people to display proudly a BBC sticker on his car is James Gatward, Managing Director of TVS.


“This sort of publicity we just can’t buy,” he told me. “I feel that it is up to us to do all we can to help the BBC to promote us, which in effect, though they probably don’t realise it, is just what they’re doing.”

The BBC is taking its campaign deadly seriously. As well as distributing the car stickers – which are available at all BBC centres – the campaign will include a series of television “commercials” which are being transmitted on BBC South during this month and next.

TVS ident

“This is something that we have never done before,” said Mike Smithson, who is in charge of the special BBC unit set up to run the campaign.

“The new ITV company is modelling itself so closely on the BBC that the Corporation felt obliged to fight back. First TVS (Television South) adopted a name almost identical to BBC Television South.

“Then they started boasting in advertisements about all the talent that they had hired away from us. Their whole pre-launch campaign has been based on their acknowledgment that the South is BBC territory, and that their only chance of success is to adopt a similar policy to that of the Corporation. We intend to ensure that viewers are able to tell which is the real thing,” Mike told me.

Terry Dobson, the BBC’s Regional Manager for the South put it in more BBC-like terms. “Although we are flattered by TVS’s pre-launch campaign, we want to make absolutely sure that the public are aware of the first class service that the BBC has been providing in the region.”

The reaction at the rival Southampton headquarters of TVS was one of initial disbelief followed by near uncontrollable mirth.

Robert Southgate, TVS’s Controller of News and Current Affairs immediately rushed out to obtain one of the BBC’s car stickers. “It’s the very least I can do for the Corporation when they are giving us all this publicity.”

Close behind him in the queue for car stickers was James Gatward.

Mr Gatward stopped laughing long enough to formally announce: “I am very pleased that the BBC chose to recognise the threat that we pose to them.”



You Say

1 response to this article

Keith 24 April 2023 at 11:44 am

I had one of these stickers along with other BBC South promo pics when I went as part of a group to be on Hey Look That’s Me in January 1982.

The leader of the group stuck it up on his workshop window but also had another sticker underneath saying …’They Might Be Better!’

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