CEO, BARC India
Marketers across the globe, in the recent past, have come out in the open to share their concerns on Digital media's lack of transparency. Digital viewership data comes from the platform itself and people have started questioning that data because the metrics of two different platforms can be totally different from each other. One platform says 30 seconds, another says it is 20 seconds and for some it's 3 seconds; there is a lack of standardisation. There is, therefore, no clear assessment of a Return on Investment, which is considered a big problem globally. In India, the Broadcast Audience Measurement Council's (BARC) digital measurement service and products, under the brand name - EKAM ('one' in Sanskrit) - is expected to be the solution to the problem. When it rolls out it will measure video across different pipes and offer marketers a far more standardised analysis.
But the roll-out of EKAM is itself a big challenge as it needs to have all the digital video platforms, Indian and International, on the same table. At vdonxt asia 2018 (the annual digital video convention organised by afaqs!), Janine Stein, editorial director, Content Asia, was face to face with Partho Dasgupta, chief executive officer, BARC India and they discussed EKAM in detail.
Janine: EKAM - what's the initiative and what are you hoping for?
Partho: We are in the business of measuring video content - whatever may be the pipe. We measure TV right now; EKAM is the next step to measuring video on digital devices. EKAM means 'one'; we are trying, eventually, to build a platform that broadcasters and content creators can use for monetisation. Also, advertisers and agencies can see the same video across different pipes. So, who's watching and how much they are watching becomes much more transparent.
Janine: It's incredibly ambitious...
Partho: Yes, it is.
Janine: You put your chances of success high... but there is a window of risk; what to you, is the risk?
Partho: A couple of days ago, I was at a similar conference and everyone was talking about how we needed to change the ecosystem and measurement is one part of it; and how advertisers and agencies should change from print and TV buying to digital buying. That is what we are trying to do. The biggest thing that we are working on, and we are fairly on our way there, is achieving consensus. That is the biggest challenge. We have so many players from India and the international ones, that there's a huge amount of diversity. Breaking down the walls of walled gardens and achieving consensus in methodology etc., are big things.
Janine: In building consensus, there has to be a carrot and a stick; what is the carrot and what is the stick?
Partho: The carrot is money; the money that you will make once you monetise. Stick? It's not right to talk about that.
Janine: Your eventual plan is to go beyond measurement; what does the journey look like to you?
Partho: Measurement will very much be at the core. What we want to do eventually, over a period of time, is to create a larger marketing cloud where all kinds of data streams, including TV, digital, telecom, consumption etc., can all come together. That's the large thought we are toying with.
Janine: What about moving to what you say is the census way?
Partho: That's one of my favourite topics. TV around the globe is panel-based. Countries like Korea and Singapore, which are well-penetrated and very well digitised, even they use a panel and not census. The digital that we are planning to do, is complete census-measurement. So when we do this, there would be one panel and one set of census-based data. But, if I throw myself a crystal gaze, I would love to see TV become census-based. How? I don't know... but I would like that. One very simple thing to say is that if data from all set-top boxes installed in homes, comes back, it becomes a census, in a way. If we all had Smart TVs, which in India is a big journey (but not for Korea or Singapore), then the return path for data could come from that platform. So, it's not impossible, but there are a lot of things that need to come into play, including distribution etc.
Janine: You are no stranger to upgrades and patches; what's your approach to changing things?
Partho: When we launched in September of 2015, since then, in a year and a half, we did about 18 upgrades, purely based on what broadcasters and agencies were talking about. As we speak, we have rolled out another one and in the next three months, we will be launching yet another. We continuously do that and it's coming from the customer's end and what they want.
Janine: Is there pushback from people who do not want the transparency you are going for?
Partho: I wouldn't say it's pushback, as everyone has their own way, but we are trying to find a way that could work best for all of us. Everybody wants it but wants it in a certain way.
Janine: Are you happy to make compromises in order to achieve the consensus?
Partho: We have not really made many compromises and have stood our ground. Only if we think it works, have we gone ahead and added certain things. It's like we wanted to reach somewhere and we found a different route to reach the same destination.
Janine: Facebook, YouTube... are you confident of having them on board?
Partho: We have a technical committee; Shashi (Sinha) chairs the committee. We have all the big broadcasters, YouTube, Facebook, everybody on the same table. So everybody is working together to achieve the consensus.
Janine: What is the question you are often asked by your constituents or outside?
Partho: When will you roll-out EKAM...
Janine: And your answer to that is?
Partho: Coming Soon... (smiles)
Janine: Will everyone make more money if they choose to be transparent?
Partho: If you are confident of your product you will have no problem with transparency.