Should Indian brands re-look the way they buy digital media?

By Anirban Roy Choudhury , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | February 10, 2017
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P&G's chief brand officer Marc Pritchard called the digital media buying process "murky" and "fraudulent" in a recent speech. What repercussions will this have, if any, in the way digital media is bought in India?

"Murky at best fraudulent at worse," is what Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer P&G considers digital media buying and planning system to be. Speaking at a forum recently, Pritchard took a jibe at the "system" in place and called it "antiquated". "Unreliable measurement, hidden rebates, new inventions like bots and methbot frauds," is what fills the system when it comes to digital advertising is what he feels.

Marc Pritchard

"We all are wasting way too much time and money on a media supply chain with poor standards, too many hidden touches, too many holes for criminals to enter and rip us off," said he.

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Pandora and YouTube, all have different viewability standards and Pritchard terms it "ridiculous". "Every time a new technology gets developed, a case is made that my platform is different, special. There are dozens of viewability metrics and all claim to be the right one," he asserted.

He's given the media buying and planning ecosystem a year to fill the loop holes and clean up the system. His statements shook the industry all around the world and tremors were felt in India too. What repercussions will this move from P&G have, if any, in India? Should Indian brands re-look the way they buy media? A look at what Indian marketers and the CEO of an audience measurement body said.

Mayank Shah, category head, Parle Products

Mayank Shah

From the way I look at it, I don't think the digital media buying and planning system in India is 'murky' or 'fraudulent'. In India digital is a medium to ensure incremental reach whereas in the US it is the primary medium to reach out to the mass.

Coming to the part where he spoke about third party measurement body, yes, I too subscribe to his thoughts. Now the data is coming from the platform or the media owner, your video got so many views, hence you are charged so and so. There is no one to validate the data that the platform is sharing, so a third party measurement body is a necessary in India too. I don't say this because I think the platform is sharing incorrect data, but a third party measurement body will make the system more transparent. I think P&G's move will expedite the movement in establishing a third party digital measurement body in India.

Shubhajit Sen, chief marketing officer, Micromax

Shubhajit Sen

In US, they come from a background of none or minimal error when it comes to data for traditional media. In India, the data that we get for traditional media is yet to reach that level of accuracy, it is more of a trend than gospel truth. Also, digital advertising in India is at a very nascent stage at this point while also being on the cusp of surpassing traditional media in many parts in the west. So the situation is not exactly same in India as that of the US.

We do get data for digital advertising from the platforms and in some cases I must say the data is more absolute than that of traditional media. BARC India is working on a lot of things to improve the current scenario but we are still far away from absolute accuracy.

Having said so, we are now dependent on the platform for data, so if we are advertising on Hotstar, Hotstar is giving us the data and we are trusting it. Recently, Facebook changed its measurement system and that shook the confidence of marketers to some extent. So, a third party measurement system is a necessary, but at this stage what is more important is to craft the creative communication adequately for the digital platforms. I don't see this drive of P&G in the US making a big difference in India where we have our own challenges to deal with when it comes to digital advertising.

Partho Dasgupta, chief executive officer, BARC India

Partho Dasgupta

As is the case in international markets, India too, faces issues of transparency and standardisation of data and metrics, when it comes to digital advertising. In fact, we are further behind from our global counterparts when it comes to digital measurement. What is encouraging is that the industry has come together to help BARC India set up systems focussing on digital measurement. This would mean that going forward, India will have standardised independent third party data with a focus on viewability, which is not an add-on or after thought like is the case in most markets. Within the next year, India will be able to take a giant leap and move ahead of many geographical markets on digital measurement.

Many in the digital landscape have been raising concerns on the absence of a third-party digital measurement body in the country. In the absence of such a system, advertisers are unable to fairly compare or get the deep insights they need into where their money is going and if their ad is actually being viewed or is it a victim of bots, fraud or just not in-view. Brands can't rely on media sellers for an unbiased viewpoint on the performance of their ads. The current scenario doesn't even give them the right comparison to empower them to make the right decisions on how to get the most out of digital. A third-party measurement body will allow them this.

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