In their quest to capture more and more eyeballs, the advertising and media industry seem to have crossed the tolerable limit. An otherwise two-and-a-half hour movie on TV stretches to three or three-and-a-half hours, thanks to excessive insertion of commercials. This expectedly is not going down well with the viewers and has certainly been an alert area for advertisers and media people.
The strange fact is that despite knowing that most of the viewers surf channels once an advertisement starts, the number of advertisements seem to be increasing by the day.
Trying to explain why this happens, Pranesh Misra, President and COO, Lowe, said, “Advertisers are aware of audience loss due to avoidance. But since the primetime channels provide relatively larger audiences, and since the rates still make sense (even after discounting a loss of viewership), they advertise on these programmes.”
Giving a media perspective on the issue, Shashi Sinha, Director, Lodestar Media, denied that there was an overdose of advertising. He maintained, “Today, there is a lot of media fragmentation and hence, the opportunities to catch the consumer are becoming lesser. So, there is no overdose of advertising, except in movies telecast on channels wherein a two-and-a-half hour movie stretches to three-and-a-half hours because of excessive advertising.”
Agreeing with Sinha, Sandip Tarkas, CEO, Media Direction, said, “There is an explosion of communication messages per se. So it is not only advertising that is witnessing spillover, but other areas as well, for example news channels, etc.”
Divulging details on mandates, Tarkas said, “The mandates are specified by the country from which channels are uplinked. Typically, it is around 10 minutes to an hour, but the same may vary depending on other factors.”
Speaking on a more practical note, Prasoon Joshi, Regional Creative Director, South and South East Asia, McCann-Erickson, said, “Basically, the advertising and the programmes have to co-exist. We will have to go where the consumers are. Having said that, the challenge for us advertisers is to make the ad so relevant, entertaining and engaging that the consumers want to watch it.”
Suggesting that a regulatory mandate specified ad time, Lowe’s Misra said, “Media owners should have a self regulation of restricting ad time to about 10 per cent of programme time. In India, we do not have any mandatory norms. In EU, the norms are at 9 per cent as far as I know. I would propose a 10-12 per cent limit for India.”
Probably, having a mandate would end the menace of frequently popping advertisements showing movies and programmes in bits and pieces. Taking into consideration the consumers’ interests, this would be an ideal step to work on.
Tarkas suggested a collective initiative, “The whole industry has to work on it. Things cannot change overnight.”
Taking a stand echoing Misra’s suggestion, McCann-Erickson’s Joshi asserted, “We need to be aware of the fact that as advertisers we piggy back on the success and popularity of a programme. If in some way, the clutter of ads in that proramme affects its popularity in a negative fashion, then the very objective of advertising in that programme will be defeated. A balance has to be achieved.”
Lodestar Media’s Sinha asserted that there was a difference between advertisements shown during serials and during movies. “The viewer may have an option to see the movie on a CD, in which case, he will implement the choice. Moreover, advertising during serials is not too high, especially considering the media fragmentation that has taken place. Earlier, Ramayana and Mahabharata used to give 80 per cent TRP, which is not the case now,” he pointed out.
Having a mandate would have large implications for the media fraternity causing a lot of changes in the rates and tariffs. Reflecting on the scenario for media planners and buyers who indulge in the rates, Lowe’s Misra foresaw, “This would automatically mean that the ad rates for some programmes have to go up substantially to make these viable for media owners. That should be okay, since the demand-supply forces would determine the price.”
It’s a fact that strong and relevant content will always manage to attract higher revenue through rates. Joshi reiterated this when he said, “Not fewer ads, but the quality of the content will help the pricing. It is again the consumer who defines what is good content. No stone should be left unturned to ensure that the content is of high quality.”
Misra also speaks of a possibility of prime time being auctioned out in advance to ensure best prices for media owners. Expressing his belief in the power of advertising and taking its case further, Joshi said, “In certain evolved markets, there are talks of completely separate channels dedicated to advertising. It will carry ads that have achieved cult status, those that were loved and became more loved than movies or programmes.”
Tarkas sums it up well saying that, “The number of messages to the customer multiply by 10 times in a century. Today, there is an information explosion and perhaps we have to live with it. The market mechanisms will eventually take care of the situation.”
For the time being, though, advertisers and media owners need to learn how to capture the elusive eyeballs by having advertisements that are more relevant and less irritating.