@FF12: Day 2: Seamless blending with traditional mediums – a big want!

20 Mar,2012

By A Correspondent


After an invigorating day where suggestions and formulas surrounding digital came flying thick and fast, it was time for the mediums of television, advertising, radio, films etc to do some soul-searching and look for solutions to tackle the imminent challenges that digital is bound to bring. The day began with a keynote address by Hernan Lopez, CEO, Fox International, who began by praising the dominance that India had cast on several countries around the world. But he regretted the fact that despite ideas and innovations gaining prominence, one area that sadly lacked innovative ideas and content was television. According to Mr Lopez, the reason for India’s lack of show was due to the fact that Indian talent “operates under price control which equals creative shackles”.


Mr Lopez continued saying that the Indian television industry is almost totally dependent on advertising revenues – almost $2.6 billion per year – which, coupled with the fact that there is an overabundance of channels and less number of affiliates, meant that broadcasters are in a bind. The way forward according to Mr Lopez was if the price control was done away with. He said that this would make it possible to pay the talent in the industry what it deserves and then it can operate without any constraints to produce the best possible content. Mr Lopez lauded the move to digitisation which would reduce the carriage fees being paid and increase the revenues for the industry.


In a session moderated by Neeraj Roy of Hungama, Sanket Akerkar, MD of Microsoft India talked about “The converged future – Multiple platforms, technologies & transforming applications for media and entertainment”. The theme of his keynote address was significance and emergence of digitisation. Citing the example of ‘Occupy Wall Street’, Mr. Akerkar said that the consumer lifestyles today are controlling the way conversations happen. The industry has to takes its cues from what the consumers want. According to him, even ads will now be consumed as per the consumers’ choice and the advertisers can’t dictate the place and time for the consumption. Now the people are going to become the content creator and content consumer. The main challenge for the industry is now to seamlessly blend and enable technology to become user-friendly, he said.


Mr Roy added by saying that technological progress has enabled applications that recognise the customer preferences, be it the Internet or the phone. All the speakers were in agreement that once the digitisation bill comes into effect, the choice of content available to the user will be limitless. As Mr Akerkar said, “the challenge will be to separate content, be it mainstream or user generated into what is relevant and what is not.”


In another session titled “Innovations in the advertising industry in the digital world”, the panellists focused on why the much sought after medium of digital was rather ignored by advertisers who preferred to seek refuge elsewhere. The panellists comprised Rajan Anandan of Google India, Olivier Fleurot of MSL, Frederic Josue of Havas Media, Vikram Sakhuja of Group M, Kapil Agarwal of UFO Moviez and Varun Gupta of KPMG India. The session was moderated by Rajiv Makhni, Managing Editor, Technology, NDTV.


Mr Anandan began by stating that India is still an emerging market where web advertising is concerned and it still constitutes just 3 per cent of the overall advertising spends in India – estimated to be around Rs 33,000 crore. The biggest driver of growth in advertising on the web would be through the rise in the number of users of smartphones, which is estimated to touch 100 million users in 4-5 years time. Smartphones alone could boost the growth of web advertising to about 8-10 per cent, he said.


Mr Josue of Havas was of the view that it would be content that will drive the growth of the medium in the years to come. But the medium will face its share of issues which include multi-tasking across various platforms as an attempt will be have to be made to offer content seamlessly across various mediums, he said. Mr Fleurot began by stating how the marketing and communications industry was witnessing a profound disruption due to the invasion of technology and social media. This, he said, has led to an increased level of competition in the marketplace. The challenge, according to Mr Fleurot, is that clients today are not yet organised for the 21st century as they still prefer to work in silos. But in the case of online, the model of working in silos will disappear as all the other mediums work as a single unit on the internet. Going forward, the two key factors that will determine the growth of this medium, he said, include the speed with which marketers communicate with their users through the digital medium and the transparency with which they operate on the medium.


Vikram Sakhuja was at his jingoistic best as he began by questioning what the term innovation in advertising actually stood for. “Innovation is a term that is broader than creativity. It is a new way of doing something better,” he said. He outlined the current scenario by stating that technology today is an overestimated medium in the short term but is underestimated for the long term. The problem according to him is that the medium has been underestimated for a long time now and that it was about time the medium leapfrogged ahead of the others – go from the current 3 to 15 percent in the shortest possible timeframe.


In the session titled “Building sustainable models for niche content” honchos from the broadcast industry such as Paritosh Joshi of Star CJ (session moderator), Smeeta Chakrabarti of NDTV Lifestyle, Monica Tata of Turner International India, Ajay Chacko of A+E Networks I TV 18 JV, Atul Pande of Zee – Sports and Rasika Tyagi of Star India discussed on revenue models to sustain TV content catering to niche audiences and its long-term sustainability. Atul Pande stressed on the need to charge premium to audiences who really are on the lookout for speciality content. Smeeta Chakrabarti said that as a speciality channel one cannot talk about TRPs, rather it is the brand connect that needs to be spoken about as far as ad sales was concerned. Rasika Tyagi on the other hand remarked that the whole idea of measuring a speciality interest channel should be relooked at. “It’s not about how many people are watching you; it’s more about what kind of people are watching you.” She also said that the audiences of niche channels are of such quality that they do not mind paying, and that broadcast companies should look to tap into that opportunity.


On whether the industry requires a different approach as far as measurement for these channels was concerned, Paritosh Joshi said, “The big challenge with respect to measurement is that we need to find a way to measure both quantity as well as quality. The quality aspect is very critical for a speciality channel.” Monica Tata added, “We need to have a different measurement system to evaluate special interest channels.”


In the post-lunch session titled “Radio: Innovations in content”, industry veterans discussed at length the innovations that radio was witnessing with regards to content and the enormous innovation opportunities that FM Phase III would allow. The session was moderated by Apurva Purohit, CEO of Radio City and the panellists included Rabe Iyer of Big FM, Abhijit Avasthi of O&M, Bhavna Somaaya, Columnist and Writer and Charles Falzon of Ryerson University.


Ms Purohit kick-started the session stating that radio currently is in a schizophrenic stage wherein on one hand the medium is witnessing immense growth, it has a huge reach in the country and the FM listenership has also further increased with higher number of mobile phones, while on the other hand the overall ad pie of the medium is at a dismal 4 per cent. She pointed out that in the next two years the industry anticipates another phase of growth which will bring news, sports commentary, multiple frequencies, besides further expansion into towns and cities.


Speaking about the strengths of radio as a medium to advertise, Mr Avasthi first admitted that out of all the media, it is the toughest to write radio spots. He explained, “The strength of radio I believe is one can conjure up a world in the minds of the listeners. What you hear on radio today is mainly restricted to Bollywood music. There are so many kinds of music still to be explored and so many types of content that can be experimented, and I believe the industry requires some amount of courage to break this format.”


According to Mr Iyer, although 80 per cent of content on radio is music and 20 per cent on the packaging of music, there has been some innovation in the medium and with the launch of phase III it will bring with it immense opportunities especially on the innovation and differentiation front.


Key takeaways:

– Need for television to do away with price control

– Niche channels to broaden content choice for consumers

– Post digitisation, consumers will dictate place and time of content consumption

– Need for significant hike in digital adspends by clients

– Phase III to steer growth of radio significantly


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