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Guest Article: Shripad Kulkarni: Some questions to the too busy ad fraternity in the first week of no TAM data

By Shripad Kulkarni , Allied Media Network, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | October 29, 2012
Good questions are half answers - sometimes, also the full answer.

Inspired by the great Busybee, and saluting him for the first week of 'No TAM data', I shall raise a few questions to the 'too busy' advertising fraternity of India while I pen some nuggets (all my own work).

Shripad Kulkarni

I believe good questions are very important. Good questions are half answers - sometimes, also the full answer. They are difficult and hence, often, many people avoid them. Of course some questions don't have an answer.

But those of you who wish to answer these questions should first commit to one of the three options: Yes, No, or DKCS (don't know can't say - if we let consumers have this option, why not for ourselves, too?) and then add views.

Here goes the first question:

Will the cable operator not find a way to not disclose the correct connectivity figure?

If we go by the guidelines, nobody can get a cable connection without a set top box. But if you closely study the wire tangle above your apartments, you can easily form another view.

Besides, there is this issue of finding the real story. And, there is enough written already in Indian and international media, even the records of courts of some countries, about how you can never know the real story in quite a few cases and also on what all could possibly be manipulated in research.

So, why would the cable operator give away all the money he is pocketing - just like that?

Will not channels gain the most by this digitisation?

If one goes by the stories in the media, it is a social well being story but it is clear that broadcast media stands to gain big time in subscription revenues from a better disclosure by cable operators. And I am not sure who else will gain by this.

As far as the ad revenue of the broadcasters is concerned, you should just study the Q&A of Paritosh and Ambika at the recent TV.NXT conference:

Paritosh: Agencies use all numbers to negotiate and drop in rates is their only agenda...

Ambika: Why can't they just sell better!

I don't think rates are as proportionately linked to ratings, as much as the sales heads in media companies would like their CEOs to believe. And, most media miss the point and hence spend less time on strategy in sales - which, by the way, includes a yield/revenue plan, rate structure, a negotiation policy, audit procedure and product category plan.

Now, a look at the planner/buyer perspective:

Do planners and buyers over-rely on ratings?

If one could record TV negotiation meetings, one would see a classical negotiations game being played, with the planners and buyers showcasing TV data as gospel. The fact is that all have planned festive campaigns on available data. And, after that, it will be a sharp fall anyway.

For example, my strategy team believes that regional/niche genres will surely gain in viewership due to digitisation, while GECs may show a little decline. Overall, TV viewing will go up a little.

And, no weekly TV plan monitoring and course correction will give many of them withdrawal symptoms, but then, they should all go for a long holiday and learn to add far more qualitative perspective to TV data and numbers in general.

That brings us to the research agency perspective:

Will not the research agency make the most of this opportunity?

Like anybody worth his salt in the industry will tell you, any ongoing research carries a lot of baggage through technology and methodology 'fault lines' which show over a period of time. Inertia, added to this, could even make the system unstable and the monopoly situation has the potential to bring about a downfall, too!

Would any research agency be naive enough to not use this chance to tweak, alter or overhaul the system, as the case may be! Of course, the assessment will drive action. While on the research agency and the by now world famous case going on, a basic question pops up in my mind.

Should niche media (like news broadcasters) chase numbers?

It is obvious that chasing figures leads to entertaining stories and sensational journalism, and not trustworthy news. I don't know of many brand managers/planners who put monies on niche media based largely on figures.

Also, haven't we heard of news channels with high GRPs but lower ad yield/ad share, and a channel which charges rates disproportionate to TVRs by reducing the commercial time or some 'quality of audience' sales pitch?

Looking at the no data situation positively, if we have to use such opportunities to improve research quality, another question becomes relevant.

Can media measurement research quality be improved without contribution from advertisers?

It is a well known fact that advertising is a three-player game (advertiser, media and agency), with the consumer as the referee. One doesn't need much research to find out that India is one of the lowest spenders on consumer/media research in absolute terms, percentage of spends, per capita or whatever.

Also, it goes without saying that media is the largest contributor to media research cost. Again, it is a well known fact that media agencies are in no position to spend more on research costs or anything else.

So, it follows that the third player must contribute to improve research quality through investments in better methodologies, to ensure that their advertising monies are well spent.

And, this final point of view:

In the final analysis, how many of us truly have empirical or research basis for 360-degree marcom budget split?

The author is CEO, Allied Media Network.