Will it be business as usual for nine weeks without TAM?

By Raushni Bhagia , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | October 18, 2012
The TAM data has been temporarily deferred for nine weeks. This has certainly raised a few questions. Will the nine-week gap in TAM data affect the buying pattern of the advertisers? Will brands be more conservative while spending on TV? Or, will everything go on as smoothly as ever, based on the last represented data? afaqs! explores.

The three industry bodies, Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF), Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA), in consensus with TAM, have announced that the television viewership measurement firm will not release any data during Week 41 to Week 49. TAM being the only currency available for the measurement of television viewership, the buying pattern on the media platform is expected to be affected. However, a fraction of media experts believe that it should not make a big difference since the festive season is almost taken care of.

Will the nine week gap in TAM data affect the buying pattern of the advertisers? Will brands be more conservative while spending on TV? Or, will everything go on as smoothly as ever, based on the last represented data? Also, is the effectiveness for advertisers expected to drop?

afaqs! spoke to a few media planners and advertisers to explore the effect of this development on media buying.

There were mixed opinions, however, most media observers were unanimous on the belief that the absence of TAM data will certainly create some ripples, if not a big wave.

Divya Radhakrishnan

Mona Jain

Shripad Kulkarni

Karthik Lakshminarayan

As Divya Radhakrishnan, managing director, Helios Media says, "There will be no immediate effect as the deals have been sealed till mid-November. However, the planning for December and January may get affected in the absence of data."

However, Mona Jain, CEO, Vivaki Exchange is convinced that the decision will have a huge impact as everything in this business is dependent on data.

Jain opines that in the absence of TAM data, the advertiser can be reluctant in spending on television as a result of which, the spends may shift to other media platforms.

"There may be a significant change in the revenues of other media platforms, so much so that the change could be tracked," she says.

Even Shripad Kulkarni, CEO, Allied Media seconds this opinion. According to him, advertisers and agencies have planned festive campaigns on the basis of the available data, however, the absence of weekly monitoring and course correction, many may show withdrawal symptoms.

Even the brandowners agree that most TV plans will be well thought over before they are finally sealed. According to them, one can't stop advertising and in the absence of the currency, things could go haywire.

A senior official from a leading automobile brand, on condition of anonymity, says, "The festive season and the absence of TAM data is a bad combination. Though, all the big advertisers have their internal analysis and research units, they can never be used as a substitute for the TAM data. The dependence on gut feeling and intuition will increase while spending on TV during this period."

However, the official is of the opinion that the diversion of budgets to other media platforms will be the last resort for any advertiser.

Many like Radhakrishnan of Helios believe that established shows like Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and Bigg Boss, will not be affected at all. However, newcomers and fresh launches, mainly in the non-fiction and reality genres, may find it tough to find buyers.

Another advertiser from the FMCG sector agrees. The advertiser says, "Viewership patterns are much different at the time of festivals. During Diwali, the evening prime time viewership is considerably low, and in the absence of quick assessment, the big ticket single telecast properties, like movies or special programmes on GECs, might not get many spenders."

The industry is also worried that digitisation drive will also affect the business on television.

Radhakrishnan of Helios Media, says, "During the shifting process from analog to digital in November, the spenders may depend more on speculations."

"The assumption that viewing pattern is largely the same would be maintained. However, the pattern will change significantly in the metros post digitisation,"

says Jain of Vivaki.

However, it's not that post digitisation, people will stop watching television, but there may be a considerable drop in viewership. Many industry observers agreed to this statement.

Karthik Lakshminarayan, COO, Crest feels that even if there is a 30 per cent drop in viewership, TV will still remain a cost-effective medium.

According to Kulkarni of Allied, the regional and niche genres will surely gain in viewership due to digitisation, while GEC may decline a little.

Kulkarni also offers a piece of advice for TAM. He says, "Any on-going research gathers a lot of baggage through technology and methodology 'faultlines', which show over a period of time. Inertia added to this could make the system even unstable. Monopoly situation has the potential to do irreparable damage! So, if I were in TAM's shoes, I would be relieved with the chance to tweak, alter or overhaul the system as the case may be!"

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