Anil Thakraney: Cap on TV ads harsh. but necessary

23 Jul,2012

By Anil Thakraney


TRAI’s proposal to control television advertising does sound anti-free market at first glance. They have proposed 12-minutes per hour cap on ads. And also a ban on drop-downs and half-screen ads. Surely this is unacceptable. In an open market economy, marketers must be allowed to run their own commercial agendas, as long as no law is being broken. Just as all other media formats and most other businesses are allowed to. And I do see matters reaching the boiling point as the D-Day gets closer. Fair enough.


Having said that, there is no doubt that TRAI’s new guidelines will vastly enrich the TV viewing experience. There are often too many ad breaks, and the Hindi news channels are particularly guilty of this. Many of us get scared of watching these channels more because of the breaks rather than the bhoot prets they regularly feature.


And on some entertainment channels, the ad breaks are so long, leave alone No 1, you can actually manage No 2 inside one break! I know this example is crass, but you have to admit it’s quite relevant in this context. 🙂


And of course, some of the sports channels have made a mockery of the TV screen. The way they splash live action with ads and commercial graphics, it’s like a naughty child has been let loose on canvas with a bucketful of paint. Half the fun of watching live action cricket has gone because of these sad gimmicks.


TRAI’s proposal attempts to correct these things, and that’s a good thing. Also, because the ad rates will zoom up in the new regime, advertisers will be pickier about the programmes they choose, and will make sure they are focused. This will provide them with better return on investment. Today, on a very serious programme like Satyamev Jayate, one is bombarded with rubbish chaddi/baniyan ads. This makes no sense, neither as a marketer nor as a viewer.


In addition, advertisers and their ad agencies will be compelled to get innovative on television. People will have to think beyond the classic 30 seconder, and as a creative person, I find that idea pretty challenging.


Bottom-line: Yup, TRAI’s proposal is autocratic and draconian. They have no right to decide how private operators choose to make their money. I accept that point. But if their new guideline does get implemented, the television medium will regain some of its lost sheen. That, too, is a fact.


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PS: Ah! Just another fun filled day in the ad world. It was like this a hundred years ago, and it’s still the same. And outsiders wonder why ad guys are often found inside watering holes. This is the key reason!


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3 responses to “Anil Thakraney: Cap on TV ads harsh. but necessary”

  1. Dinyar Contractor says:

    There is Nothing ” autocratic and draconian ” or even new in the TRAI Proposal, its only a Long Overdue wake up call by the regulator.

    Actually the Cable Act, 20 Years ago has limited ads to 12 minutes per hour. Probably due to an oversight, the law did not Explicitly state that the ad time would be computed per hour. Broadcasters have exploited this lacuna by clubbing 24 Hrs worth of ad time and funneling it during 3 to 4 hours of Prime Time! Some News Channels carry ad for 51% of their prime time ! This is a nuisance for TV viewers, and also impacts the recall that advertisers receive for their ads, as they may not stand out from the clutter. The TRAI’s recommendations are reasonable and just, and certainly in the interests of the 100 Million plus TV viewers.

    the TRAI has also REMINDED ( its Not a New Impose) that the 2 decade old Cable act dictates :

    “”All advertisement should be clearly distinguishable from the programme and should not in any manner interfere with the programme viz., use of lower part of screen to carry captions, static or moving alongside the programme.” .

    Pop up Ads have been banned all along. Only the government ( and viewers) have failed to pull up offending channels. I do remember that viewers did Howl in protest when Cable Operators inserted their local pop up ads. But Brutus (B’caster) is an honourable Man ! 😉

  2. Sampathkumaar says:

    no commercial in most of HD channel. but no takers any reason for that

    • Dinyar Contractor says:

      The number of eyeballs for HD content in India are currently miniscule.

      I suspect that is why advertisers dont bother … for now.

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