Dumping TAM is not the solution!

11 Jun,2013

 

Dumping a system does not solve the problem: CVL Srinivas
 

While both AAAI and ISA have expressed their views on the controversy, we asked GroupM CEO South Asia CVL Srinivas, CEO South Asia, GroupM as head of the country’s largest media agency conglomerate for his views on the issue.

 

As the country’s largest media agency conglomerate, what is Group M’s view on the current imbroglio – given that three broadcasters have stopped their subscriptions making charges?

In our view it is an extremely ill-advised, ill-timed and regressive move. TAM is the rating system followed by the industry. Rating systems world over have evolved and keep evolving. To simply junk them altogether is not a solution. Issues if any need to be addressed jointly by all stakeholders as were done in the past. Both AAAI and ISA have already made their stand clear on this. As a responsible member of the industry we will work with our colleagues across industry bodies to help address the issue.

 

You represent some of the biggest adspenders in India: are you happy with the data dished out by TAM week after week?

In a dynamic market like ours which is seeing a lot of structural change (like digitization, increasing penetration of TV in smaller towns, more access to satellite channels etc) there is bound to be fluctuation every time the sample is refreshed or any other change is made. In addition, there are behavioural changes from a viewer perspective that keep happening. Nobody can deny the fact that consumption of content on digital platforms is growing at a rapid pace. TV ratings keep shifting and mirroring real life in a manner they best possibly can given the limitations of a sample survey.

And your clients? Have they (especially big ones like Hindustan Unilever) raised issues about TAM’s and the data’s bonafides?

Our clients continue to back TAM. They do not think that dumping a system solves the problem. Whatever questions keep coming up are always discussed openly with TAM and addressed.

 

TV as a medium has shown robust growth despite a general slowdown. To a large extent this is because of the existing rating system. Given the magnitude of spends on TV, a rating system is a must. With no ratings a spot on one channel is the same as a spot on another channel. The lead channels in every genre will stand to lose the premium they command on rates.

 

Does the fact that TAM is part-owned by your parent WPP put you under greater pressure from advertisers – since you obviously can’t be vociferously condemning TAM, if there was need for it?

TAM is recognised as an industry system and has been in existence for many years. All clients, agencies and media owners have been using this data.

 

Would you think that broadcasters have too much of ownership of the measurement exercise when actually it should be advertisers and media agencies since you’ll are the primary users of the data?

While advertisers and agencies use the rating data to help plan and buy media, for broadcasters it is the currency that helps them sell their inventory. They are able to command a premium wherever ratings are high. They use ratings to market their programmes and channels.

 

AGENCY+CLIENT VIEW
 

Srinivasan K Swamy, CMD, RK Swamy BBDO and President, International Association of Advertisers (India Chapter)

 

TV ratings have shown a downward trend after digitization of distribution. The decline is quite steep – as much of 20-25% in several instances. Such decline affects the revenue stream of broadcasters and hence it is natural for them to reject it. But it is like giving a dog (TAM) a bad name to hang it.

 

Advertisers and agencies need ratings for advertising planning. It would be a retrograde step if the ratings had to be given a go-by, even for a short run. I am confident a solution will be found to continue the ratings even with Channels withdrawing their subscriptions.

 

Lloyd Mathias, Lloyd Mathias, Director, Green Bean Ventures formerly with Tata Teleservices, Motorola and Pepsi and former Chairman, MRUC

Basically media doesn’t like being measured by a third party. It happened in print with people raising objections to the NRS and later the IRS. In fact the Media Research Users Council (MRUC) which was set up by stakeholders faced a constant threat of boycott.

 

The same lack of discomfort of being measured by a third party afflicts television too.

 

However, in all fairness even advertisers have said that the number of Peoplemeters isn’t enough. I think the methodology has to be transparent, the Peoplemeter base has to increase and the system must factor in cross-consumption of media.

ISA view: Advertiser cannot advertise without television ratings
 

Statements issued by the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI)

 

The Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) has read with concern recent reports that some broadcasters have decided to stop subscription to television measurement service. This is a matter of immense importance as the measurement system is integral to the health of the industry. The rating system needs to continue for the smooth functioning of the industry as it’s the very foundation of the commercial process, media planning and pricing. The ISA believes that any measurement system should appropriately reflect the viewership pattern and should not be judged on a short term basis.

 

The best course of action is to engage in a constructive dialogue and pursue continuous improvement. While some broadcasters have stopped using the current rating system for measurement, as advertisers we support it and will continue using it till another credible measurement system is made available. Any action taken which is detrimental to the measurement system would be detrimental to the industry at large. “An industry-accepted rating system is the need of the hour and ISA is working with rest of the industry to ensure this is in place and any action to the contrary will have an adverse impact” – Hemant Bakshi, Chairman, Managing Committee, The ISA and Executive Director, Home and Personal Care – Hindustan Unilever Limited.

 

AAAI view: TV could lose popularity with advertisers

Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) has expressed shock at the decision of some channels, supported by the Broadcasters’ Association, IBF to decide not to subscribe to the only TV Ratings service in the country – TAM. TV ratings provide the currency based on which thousands of crores worth of advertising time is bought by advertisers with confidence. Ratings also provide the basis on which media agencies do sophisticated analysis and arrive at sharply targeted plans for a brand’s target audience to minimize wasteful advertising and improve advertising effectiveness.

 

An established rating system augurs well for the Advertising and Marketing Industry, because it enables advertisers to invest large sums of money in advertising with the confidence that they are reaching the right number of desirable audiences. It has been seen from experience in India and other markets that an established media research study on an ongoing basis leads to rapid increase in advertising spends in that medium. Those media which do not have such a system have not grown in India. Also, the current TV ratings system has thrown up real leaders in each of the genres based on the audiences they deliver and enables such leaders to command a premium price based on such ratings, rather than advertisers and agencies having to rely on perception. And very often perception is different from reality.

 

AAAI will hold broadcasters responsible for deliveries as per signed agreements based on the TV Ratings System. Says Arvind Sharma, President AAAI, “The move by broadcasters to discontinue with ratings is ill-advised and not in the interest of advertisers, advertising agencies or broadcasters. It will lead to overpaying and underpaying of advertising time, both of which will lead to a collapse of TV as an advertising medium. The ratings from Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) are yet some time away and until they are released it is critical to continue with the current system. Most broadcasters all over the world have some issue with media measurement systems but that does not mean that the system must be abandoned. Instead it must be improved and identified gaps must be plugged”.

 

Wtf! Why can’t all stakeholders sit together and clear the mess?
 

By Pradyuman Maheshwari

 

The media industry is captained by grown-ups, wise and mature men and women. We propound theories on ways the world should be run on our news channels and send social messages via our soaps and shows. But, wtf, why can’t broadcasters, advertisers, advertising agencies and measurement/ research firms sit together and clear the mess?

 

With BARC having invited proposals by issuing a global RFP, a new system can be expected to be in place this time next year. However, since there is a year to go and much business to be sought, can we do the following:

1. Get a third-party to study the problems and come up with a white paper superquick? A consulting firm like Ernst & Young could be asked to do it. Or KPMG. Or PwC. Or whoever can do it without getting influenced by any of the stakeholders. We could ask the folks at BARC to do it. Let the three stakeholders plus the government-owned Doordarshan commission this soon.

 

2. Let each stakeholder appoint a representative to have a Measurement Steering Committee which will work in the interim. These could be from amongst people running BARC currently.

 

3. Alter the method of funding research. Although no one was willing to come on record on this, there is a sentiment that the broadcasters have a dominating influence on BARC (and now TAM). This has got to change (the perception and if it is indeed a fact). Currently, since it’s advertising which drives the broadcast business, the ad agency and the advertisers are the primary users of the data.

 

Hence, the stoppage of subscription revenues going to TAM (and later BARC) can derail the entire system. And have a significant impact on the TV trade. Perhaps the South African model of a small percentage of all advertising revenue going to fund research may work.

 

These are three immediate measures that may work. There are various other minds at work… one hopes we will eventually see reason.

 

Whatever be the way out of the mess, it’s clear that the industry can ill-afford a system without a measurement system. TAM, in this case. And it’s also important TAM understands the problems of broadcasters and corrects all the problem areas.

 

That’s the only way to go.

 

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