Sanjeev Kotnala: Do we really miss the IRS?

28 Jan,2015


By Sanjeev Kotnala


Media planning has spiritually come a long way. The sixth sense of media planner in Indian advertising industry is more powerful than that of the dog in Mahesh Bhatt camp. They are more accurate than the meteorological department in predicting tectonic shifts and minor tremors in media environment. The media weights are being reshaped by decisions taken using the black box with multiple-grid based complex tools.


Advertising is an insight-mining business and is deeply research-oriented, yet we have adapted to the new reality. Other than TV where we hear rumours of fresh data emerging, we have nothing to go by in terms of print, radio (other than metros), outdoor and even digital. Almost all advertising investment for brands is based on the perception matrix, past trends, unilateral media studies and the internal pulls within these media planning groups. If at one place buyer is TV-centric, the other is torchbearer of digital agenda and the third been carries anti-print stance. They suggest, recommend, design and define every media intervention with these media skews. Let us have no illusion that forward buying, preferred media status and agency level incentives do not influence the sixth sense and in turn the media selection.


Today is the anniversary of PRINT MUTINY of 2014. On January 28 last year, the all-new IRS was unveiled. The day when print brands started the revolt against IRS results. They were called many names including insensitive, inaccurate, polarised and highly biased. The brands substantiated their observations with examples that even the visually challenged could see. Since then a lot been said and undone. Yet, the only result we have is we have NO RESULT.


Frankly, the users and the providers seem not in a hurry. Life has moved on. The users don’t give a #$@$ to what and when the new reader/ viewer/ listenership data would emerge and show them the right path.


Scientifically, in 21 repetitions, the unconscious mind forms a new habit. Once it happens, it works on autopilot. Later on, it takes huge efforts to change. In absence of real data, a new habit of planning through sixth sense has taken over. International trending, small dipsticks masquerading as original research, dealer impression and perceptions are defining media selection and negotiations. This has taken the industry back by decades. There is no difference from the time when kitty party members of the boss’s wife could define serials for placing ads to today when the sixth sense is defining the media skews in a plan.


Frustrated with repeated blocks and lack of data, proactive clients with large budgets have their own algorithms and internal feedback mechanism to detect media changes and fine-tune the media plans. They are all temporary and not an ideal solutions. In fact, it would have not only been interesting but also in interest of the industry IF ONLY the media practitioners (media agencies) and consumers  (clients) had forced the industry (and media owners) from living in this vacuum. Or maybe it works to their advantage.


May be and I use MAY BE in all caps, it is time for large advertisers to force a solution demanding independent media research results. May be the government should help get an ordinance forcing media brands to compulsorily subscribe and participate in media studies. May be it ensures that the right to object to research findings is withdrawn. May be a 1% media cess is levied on all media investments creating funds for a tribunal solely engaged in media studies.


I know this is an unfinished dream. Media organisations and their collective sixth sense will continue to rule for some more time. In the process we will further open doors to rampant corruption.



Sanjeev Kotnala is Head Catalyst at INTRADIA and believes the best way forward for an organization is to enhance the potential of  internal teams instead of depending on external resources. He is a management- marketing-media consultant and also conducts specialised workshops in the area of ‘Harvesting and Liberating Ideas’ and Innovation.  To contact email or tweet at s_kotnala visit The views expressed here are his own.


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