Dialogue I Venkat
I Venkat
Director, Eenadu
'We have travelled a long distance in the last 26 years. The confidence in ASCI among the public and the government has been enhanced substantially. It has been very good. Plus, in the last year we have achieved a lot. We have introduced the National Advertising Monitoring Service (NAMS), which looks at all new ads appearing in the country in print and TV.'
I Venkat has been a one-company man all these years – having started with Eenadu and continues to be associated with it as Director on its Board. He has been in the advertising and marketing profession from 1970. Venkat has been actively associated with industry bodies such as Media Research Users Council, Andhra Pradesh Newspapers Association, Advertising Standards Council of India, Indian Broadcasting Foundation, INMA and ABC Council of Management.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Shree Lahiri, Venkat talks about the achievements of the Advertising Standards Council of India as well as Eenadu’s performance over the years.

Q. The aim of ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India) is to maintain and enhance the public’s confidence in advertising. Has this body managed to boost public confidence?

The aim of ASCI is to monitor misleading ads and follow all that is specified in the four chapters of ASCI. We operate on four principles – that ads should be truthful, honest and not misleading; should be decent; should not promote unsafe practices or actions; and should be fair in competition (that is, you cannot denigrate another product and you cannot plagiarize). Besides the four principles, we have four guidelines for some industries like food & beverages, automobile, education and also for size and duration of supers and disclaimers. We are also been recognised by the I&B Ministry under Cable TV and Network rules, which say that no ad that violates the ASCI Code for regulations can appear on cable network.

Q. ASCI’s mandate is that all advertising material must be truthful, legal and honest, decent; that it should not objectify women, and should be safe for consumers - especially children, and last but not the least, should be fair to their competitors. How far do you think ASCI has travelled in achieving this?

We have travelled a long distance in the last 26 years. The confidence in ASCI among the public and the government has been enhanced substantially. It has been very good. Plus, in the last year we have achieved a lot. We have introduced the National Advertising Monitoring Service (NAMS), which looks at all new ads appearing in the country in print and TV.

Q. It was reported that ASCI has been seeking statutory powers from the Government to make its decision binding on advertisers. What is the status on that?

We have not sought any powers at all. It was wrong. That was never our desire and we do not want to be a judicial process. Let the government decide; if an advertiser fails to comply, let the government take action.

Q. How has ASCI’s National Advertising Monitoring Service been helping to track misleading ads?

We track 45,000 press ads in print and 1,500 ads on TV per month. Two or three years ago, there used to be 200 complaints against 160 ads. Last year, we had got 2,986 complaints against 176 ads and this year, we have processed under NAMS, 100 complaints in the last three months and in the normal course it’s 35 in four months, taking the total number to 135.

Q. Will self-regulation in advertising ever be a reality without a legal regime to control the incidence of misleading ads?

Yes, it can be. The compliance on TV is 100 per cent and all ads have been removed or corrected, where it was supposed to be corrected. In print, it is 85-90 per cent. Some small publications in smaller towns – it’s difficult to monitor. We do have a good track record.

Q. What needs to be done to give ASCI Advertising Code more ‘teeth’?

We believe we are doing good work, teeth or no teeth. So far, all complaints are getting addressed and we are closely monitoring ads too.

Q. You have had a very long association with Eenadu, which is regarded as ‘the heart & soul of Andhra Pradesh’. How is the publication doing?

The print edition of Eenadu is doing well. For the first time, though not recently, all 294 Assembly constituencies of Andhra Pradesh have separate sections in our paper now, where all news and information about the constituency is given. We are thus connected with our readers in each constituency on a daily basis, discuss issues in their territory. No one else is doing this, we are the first to start this practice. Our online edition is also doing well. The average page views work out to 60 million views per month.

Q. IRS Q1 2012 saw nine out of top 10 language dailies seeing a decline. What do you think have been the main reasons for this decline?

Yes, there has been a decrease even though the number of households has increased. The explanation would be that it’s because earlier each household had six to eight people, while today, we have moved to nuclear families, where the family members are three to four. So, it is logical that the readership comes down, but circulation has been on the increase.

Q. Eenadu has also lost 85,000 readers in IRS Q1 2012. What are you doing to stem this slide in the subsequent quarters of 2012?

We are making adequate efforts to see that readership will increase with circulation. We are doing a lot of promotional activities at the grass-root level, like door-to-door campaigns. But one thing is clear that we have been constantly talking to our readers, which we had been doing since the launch of Eenadu. We have established a strong connect with our readers.

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