Ashwini Gangal and Sunit Roy

To what extent will the recently released IRS data impact marketers' print spends?

And what role does print advertising play for their brands?

Last May, we asked brand marketers whether the then-new data released by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), which revealed significant growth in print media, would tempt them to advertise more in print. While they spoke to us about the reasons print continues to grow in India, they said their investment in the medium would be contingent upon the then-imminent release of the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) results. Read the article here.

A few weeks back, the IRS results that were released after a long gap of four years were made available to the advertising, marketing and media fraternities. Read our report on the results here. Now that brand marketers and their teams have had some time to go over the numbers, we decided to ask them a few questions on the matter. Essentially, we tried to understand what the figures mean to them.

Also, will the IRS change the way they approach print advertising? To what extent? How big a role will this data play in their decision-making process as far as their investment in print media goes?

We also asked them to comment on the role print media plays today, in the context of their brands. What is that one thing print can do, that other media platforms can't?

Edited excerpts.

Jaskaran Kapany, vice president, marketing, Paytm

To what extent will the recently released IRS data impact marketers' print spends?

Jaskaran Kapany

We spend significantly on print. While spends can change in a particular year, linkage to spends is basis brand and business needs and not necessarily IRS numbers alone. We would like such surveys to give some directional input to spends. We also have internal measures which help us choose media. So, while IRS may help give broad indications, decisions will continue to get made basis business needs.

While it's early to fully gauge the implications of the study, it is noteworthy to see that the convergence of traditional and new-age media, that is online readership, is on the rise. The fact that the extent of newspapers read 'online' is over 25 per cent in NCCS A1 should encourage some print related conversations in the industry.

All mediums come with their inherent strengths and weaknesses... for Paytm, a mass brand, print helps build credibility and educate the masses about some of our new products. For tactical campaigns, it gives good reach in a short amount of time. Additionally, the regional connect that newspapers have is unique and we feel this works well for a national brand like ours.

Print has taken a long time to build a loyal base; it's difficult for other mediums to replicate this in a short period of time. The perceived credibility of the written word works well and is something other media may find tough to match. That being said, digital continues to push boundaries.

Karan Kumar, head of brand and marketing, Fabindia

To what extent will the recently released IRS data impact marketers' print spends?

Karan Kumar

We started doing a fair bit of print advertising after I joined. IRS confirms what I already believed. Newspapers are here to stay especially the regional - not necessarily vernacular - ones. Instincts are numbers driven! My current choices have been directed by a thorough analysis of which publications deliver optimally, with minimal spillovers. This has led us to include regional titles as part of our national plan, an approach that will continue.

Magazines continue to be extremely relevant to certain demographics/lifestyles. TV is important for mass reach, but we've chosen the newspaper route for now, as we haven't created enough engaging storytelling content for TV as a medium... yet! Social/ digital remain the first port of call for all things targeted and performance-driven including custom audiences, mirror audiences and re-marking.

So besides TV, our current marketing mix actually does very well against the recommendations that the IRS makes and I am happy that we were already on it without waiting for IRS outcomes.

For driving mass salience and communication, newspapers have always been the most efficient medium when it comes to CPR. I don't think any other media comes close or will come close going forward, except maybe some time bands and properties on TV. So advertising in newspapers raises the ambient salience quotient of a brand especially when you are communicating new launches that are broad-based in their audience appeal. Outdoor can be a strong support medium for this.

Engagement and storytelling have limited capability in newspapers; that has always been the case and continues to be. Obviously, the medium is not best suited for an on-going conversation between the brand and its audiences. It allows for one-way communication only. But it's a potent medium for building brand salience and stature among stakeholders - customers, trade partners, decision-makers - if you know which specific newspaper brands to choose for each state/ market. For example, business papers versus mainstream, supplements versus the main book, weekday versus weekend placements etc.

Sanjeev Kumar Shukla, group chief marketing officer, Muthoot Pappachan Group

To what extent will the recently released IRS data impact marketers' print spends?

Sanjeev Kumar Shukla

I see a paradigm shift in the way we (marketing/ communications professionals, more India than Bharat, urbanites and digital crawlers) have been thinking about print media in the recent past. It's obvious, as it comes after such a gap. Weightage and allocation for individual print publications and language-wise division will change big time.

Also, it busts a few key modern myths like - digital is gnawing into print; print is de-growing and so is its reach, circulation, readership, engagement, and efficacy; youngsters have leaped from TV to digital and have skipped newspapers; the English press is the only credible opinion-maker; language press is considered more kitschy and 'Bollywood-ish'; new readers are moving away from the hard copy newspaper, etc. These are all myths.

My decision making/ approach is not going to change drastically because I have always believed in the reach, relevance, efficacy, and impact of the newspaper, particularly vernacular ones. Our core business - financial services for the common man - itself strengthens my proclivity towards print media, particularly vernacular newspapers.

Print media, particularly low cover price newspapers, as compared to high cover price magazines, is, relatively better than TV and digital when it comes to affordability and accessibility; you can't carry your TV around and a mobile is limited by connectivity and type.

Anika Agarwal, senior vice president and head, marketing, digital and direct sales, Max Bupa Health Insurance

To what extent will the recently released IRS data impact marketers' print spends?

Anika Agarwal

The industry has been using IRS for decades now. It has been the most reliable study to evaluate print and has also been looked upon as a complete media and market planning tool, covering insights across platforms.

The approach towards print advertising will continue to be the same for the industry. However, with new reporting variables, we will look at the numbers in new a light and derive meaningful insights. The toplines show some interesting insights like growth of readership driven by rural markets across languages, increase in variant readership, etc. Data shows how infrequent readership is going up. Hence, we need to be more careful as AIR (average issue readership) shows no growth. So, if variant readership has gone up in some markets and if the pricing is favourable, we will evaluate those publications.

Every marketer looks at maximising ROI. Since we use print very selectively it plays a crucial role in deciding on optimal investment plans. For example, variant issue advertising might come into force as it has been showing higher growth than main issues. Therefore, with new reporting variables and new methodologies, one has to be extremely mindful of these numbers and its usage in decision making.

Print is one of the costliest mediums today; the Indian ad industry spends close to 39.9 per cent on print per day. But average time spent on the medium is just 7.5 per cent. Hence, it becomes crucial for the marketer to know the exact role of print in his/ her media mix. It's still one of the best mediums to drive impact, stature and immediacy at scale, things no other medium can drive. It enjoys better credibility over other media formats, especially for the insurance category, as brands can give details about new product features.

Advertising in the insurance category is seasonal. So the role of print is restricted to new product launches, micro-marketing/specific tactical campaigns, amplification of flagship, city-specific events, etc.

Mayank Shah, category head, Parle Products

To what extent will the recently released IRS data impact marketers' print spends?

Mayank Shah

We will factor in these new numbers as they will play a significant role in our print advertising-related decisions. Even during the last four years, when we were working on our press plan, we referred to 2012 IRS numbers as indicators as that was the last point of reference available to us. We also depended on circulation numbers to make our decisions, since that was the only option left in the absence of readership data. Typically, you refer to both, readership and circulation data, to get a gross idea as to how many print copies are going out. But there are always chances of error.

Going forward, now that readership data is released, we will be able to plan better. While our approach will remain the same, what will change is the weightage I will give to circulation data. A lot has changed over the past seven to eight years. Today, while taking a call about 'only Hindi' versus 'only English' versus 'Hindi plus English' papers, this new set of numbers will make a big difference.

For a processed food category like ours, print is a bad option for thematic advertising. But it's good for tactical advertising. Print plays a big role when you're looking to educate consumers. Also, print plays an important role in certain markets where TV viewership is low (due to poor TV penetration or irregular power supply), for instance in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In these belts, print picks up fast and reaches far.

Overall, the attention span of a consumer on print is far higher than it is on TV; if the creative is appealing, then the person will keep looking at it. Print also works well when you want to deliver multiple messages at once.

Have news to share? Write to us