Measurement mayhem as TAM goes weekly for some

12 Jul,2013


By A Correspondent


Interviews by Johnson Napier


If you thought that broadcasters would be on their knees to keep advertisers and media agencies happy, perish the thought. This is India in the year 2013 and relations between those who put money on media vehicles and the vehicle-owners have hit the bottom.


Over recent times, there have been issues between advertisers, media agencies and broadcasters. It started with the constitution of the BARC, and moved to the Net billing issue and eventually moved to the status of the TAM-administered television audience measurement system. Along with the controversy on the measurement system has also been the issue of CPT versus CPRP being the currency for adspends.


The unsubscription of TAM’s services by leading networks post an advisory of broadcaster body IBF last month was the last straw. While broadcasters had their reasons, the AAAI and ISA felt that it was harsh a decision and should’ve been settled by way of discussions, especially since there is a BARC-administered measurement system that’s just around a year away.


On Thursday (July 11), after many days of the stalemate between the IBF, AAAI and the ISA and of course TAM, it was decided by the Nielsen-Kantar jv to fulfil its contractual obligations and publish monthly ratings for all those desirous of it. Although in terms of numbers, the entities are few – Star, Zee, TV18+Viacom 18, MSM, NDTV, Times TV, Sri Adhikari Brothers, BAG Films and India TV, they control a sizeable pie of ad revenues across all their channels.


Noted a statement issued by a TAM spokesperson: “TAM, purely as an act of professionalism, is fulfilling and respecting its contractual duties and obligations that it is bound by, with the individual Broadcaster clients. This decision is basis individual client letter requests received by TAM from only specific few  TV Channels.  Data for all other TV Channels will be reported as earlier.”


Srinivasan Swamy

Said Srinivasan K Swamy, Chairman and Managing Director, RK Swamy BBDO:  “This move by TAM to agree to a monthly reporting for the said channels  is bowing to the pressure of these broadcasters and is a desperate reaction to the issue. Fundamental changes in a measurement system followed for years cannot be undone for a few select parties without accounting for the consensus amongst the other stakeholders , particularly the advertisers. ” Mr Swamy was critical of TAM too on the decision: “Having succumbed to such pressure tactics can lead to a further question mark on TAM’s  credibility,”


According to Sam Balsara, CMD, Madison World and one the seniormost representing media agency professionals in the country, advertisers are “unwilling to take this unilateral decision of broadcasters lying down”.


Sam Balsara

Added Mr Swamy: “This is a retrograde step for a medium known to be extremely dynamic. In fact the argument can be that the move to measure TV should be available on a daily basis rather than weekly and here we are moving to a monthly. While both CPT and CPRP have their advantages and disadvantages, the bigger issue is of data stability and integrity. While the move to CPT is the way to go in the future and its advantages are known, but in absence of a new robust measurement metrics, such actions do not reflect a mature industry functioning. Where is the advertiser and the media agency in this decision?  It is time the three industry bodies ISA, IBF, AAAI arrive at a long-term solution to such fundamental issues and put a roadmap in place to prevent such knee=jerk changes in an important area of measurement.”



Ashish Bhasin

Echoing a similar view is Ashish Bhasin, Chairman, India and CEO, South East Asia of Aegis Media: “I think we should let it be the way it is and rather have a joint industry body like BARC or people who are qualified to handle such issues from a technical standpoint. Obviously there are some issues with TAM. We cannot take decisions on an ad hoc basis where TAM moves from weekly to monthly for some and gives out weekly data to the others. It will just add to the confusion; we need to get in experts like the BARC technical committee because they have all the constituents concerning the welfare of the industry including broadcasters and advertisers. So they will have to take a relook at the whole issue and put forth recommendations that are best for the industry.”


Meanwhile, advertisers are not too amused by the decision. A senior marketing professional with a multinational said that the willingness to discuss issues shouldn’t be construed as a weakness on the part of those putting in monies. Another advertiser who we spoke to said that while decisions to advertise do not change on a week-on-week basis in the case of general entertainment channels, for some channels like news a more instant measurement mechanism is vital. “It’s my money so I want to know if I am spending it well. It’s not that I will stop spending If I don’t know how my money is being spent, Said Mr Bhasin: “According to me, these ad hoc steps are really retrograde. The world is moving to real-time data on a daily basis and to move to a monthly system is not acceptable. For all you know, clients might actually rethink their association with the medium of television and may channelize their energies on other mediums. Clients may lose confidence on the medium of television as if you release data after a long gap they won’t be able to analyse the immediate impact that will be created. If clients start reducing or pulling back the monies, we agencies and broadcasters will be on the losing end. So net-net, a joint industry body needs to look at it from a holistic standpoint and put forth their recommendations – what should happen in the short-term till BARC comes in.”


The last is not heard on the television audience measurement controversy. The stakes are high and so are the bucks. For many, it also means a threat to the very existence.


Please stand by for more as the drama unfolds.


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