The economy is back in the fast lane, and so are the spends on media. There are about Rs 25,000 crore at stake and the media decision makers would decide how this money would be spent. So how do they decide where to put their money? Last year, we introduced the Pitch Media BrandOmeter, which tries to gauge the perception of media planners and buyers about media brands and what factors influence their plan.
The preliminary interactions showed that primarily there were six different parameters that could influence media decision making – Media Delivery, Professionalism, Servicing Ability, Innovation, Sales Team Knowledge, and Relationship. While, the study took the view point of the media decision makers - how they weighed these parameters, it also rated the media brands - across Television, Print & Radio platforms - on these parameters.
Buoyed by the success of the study and the feedback – that Pitch BrandOmeter is a currency to evaluate media brands qualitatively, we have expanded the sample size - up from 125 last year to 303 this year. We have also taken the first step to move beyond Delhi and Mumbai and go regional. Hence, Bengaluru was included in the survey this year.
One may ask the rationale behind such a study, when there are tools like the TAM for television, RAM for radio and IRS, NRS and ABC for print, to make a media plan. These tools may throw quantitative feedback, however, it’s not always the numbers the media decision makers go by. According to Ashish Bhasin, Chairman India & CEO South East Asia, Aegis Media and Director, Posterscope – APAC, “All media decision makers have plethora of data available to them. But the big challenge that they really face is to relate these numbers to their observations, judgment and assessment of the compatibility of the media with the brand’s task. Media managers need to focus on being flexible, brand oriented and innovative, as after a point, numbers matter lesser than the connect that the communication is finally able to make with the target audience.”
Our survey and the talks with various stake holders, just reveals that Media Delivery is given. But can media brands give the advertisers any innovations to break the clutter? Is the sales team of the media brand knowledgeable enough to understand the clients’ needs; do they understand their geography enough? These all questions finally decide where the media planner is going to bet the advertisers’ money.
According to media decision makers, media delivery is the basic hygiene factor to determine a media plan. Of all the six parameters, it is the only parameter that is quantifiable, which can be explained as the reach of the medium to a particular set of audience and at what cost. So how good the deal is, in terms of the reach (number of people it reaches out to in a particular geography) and right audience? Does it offer good rates and are there any value adds? These are some questions media decision makers ask? Are we getting a good ROI?
Vikram Sakhuja, CEO - South Asia, GroupM says, “At its most basic, ROI should be in terms of delivering against the promised cost of reaching a consumer (CPT). At its most optimum, ROI should be measured in its most classical form of growth in profits for every $ of media spent. The challenge lies in our opportunistic media market today looking at increasing or reducing the absolute rate based on demand-supply pressures rather than agreeing on a particular CPT. Let’s at least get to this first base before even discussing how we can deliver the classical ROI.”
According to P Narayanamoorthy, Strategic Communication Consultant, the biggest problem in measuring ROI on media investments is the definition of metrics, which has two aspects. The first is that each medium has its own metrics. “TV has GRPs, print has R/F (reach and frequency), internet uses metrics such as impressions, click throughs, etc. And each one is not compatible with another. Therefore, measuring a campaign delivery poses a challenging problem,” he says.
Worse still, all these are just media metrics and not related to brand performance. Therefore, they are not ROI measures. How do we define ROI for a brand? “Each brand works with a different definition. Sales can be considered an effective ROI measure, but even this is fraught with problems. What generated sales? Just media activity, halo effects, festivals, promotions, other marketing activities? Maybe, a medium was used for building awareness. Therefore, it would be unfair to measure its ROI in sales terms. And the problems continue,” he says, adding, “There needs to be a consensus on this issue. But currently, it is being brushed under the carpet in India!”
Coming back to the survey, it just reiterates the importance of Media Delivery. With 54 per cent of the respondents calling it as a ‘Critical’ factor, it has emerged as the most important parameter for media decision makers to decide the media plan. Last year, it was ‘Critical’ to 60 per cent of the respondents. In fact, it wasn’t that ‘Important’ too, this year.
According to Bhavna Jha, Associate VP, TME (Delhi), while clients are keen to put money on the best performing channel, they aren’t contented with numbers alone. They are looking to engage people as well. “Which means, you are bringing a qualitative factor to your numbers. The definition of delivery has been evolving and is becoming holistic. What is that little extra bit, the media house will do, will make the difference,” she says.
It is this extra bit that probably has Sun TV down on most of the parameters. While it has the numbers on its side, it rates poorly on parameters like Relationship. In fact, Sun doesn’t have its office in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, say media experts in unison. So why does Udaya TV, a part of the Sun Network, rank high in the regional TV space. The answer lies with the respondents in Bengaluru, a fresh addition to our survey.
During the slowdown, while media decision makers were looking only for numbers; or conceding to Relationships, this year, they are looking for a quality audience too. They want to know the content as well and decide if the advertiser’s product find salience with the content. “Relevance of content plays a very important role when the perception of the planners comes into play. Delivery has to be both in terms of numbers and content,” says Saurabh Tyagi, Executive Director, Starcom Worldwide. He rues the fact that there isn’t any content measurement tool in the current measuring systems. His demand may not be out of place, if we consider the fact that unlike news, where viewers choose channels, the GEC (General Entertainment Channels) genre is consumed on basis of programmes.
Content also holds importance, when the numbers are equal for media brands. It further boils down to rates too. “This is especially the case if the channels being advertised on are substitutable. However, when the channels offer distinctive opportunities and cannot be substituted, it is important to take a look at other parameters closely,” says T Gangadhar, Managing Director, MEC
And the second most Critical factor after Media Delivery is ‘Professionalism’. Himanka Das, COO, Karishma Initiative, names ethics, transparency and clear communication as the three pillars of Professionalism.
While Media Delivery tracks effectiveness of the media brands, Servicing Ability, Sales Team Knowledge, Innovation and Relationship are people driven. Professionalism, meanwhile, is a ‘processes’ driven parameter that asks questions: How professional the media brand is? Does it maintain ethical standards? Does the brand stick to commitments?
These questions cannot be individualistic in nature. Saurabh Tyagi, Executive Director, Starcom Worldwide, says, “Companies have gone beyond individuals. They have created a system and you can’t deal with an individual alone. It goes through the processes.”
Media decision makers are getting tougher, and would like to associate with brands that are quite Professional in their approach. Forty eight per cent of the respondents rate the parameter to be Critical. The fact that last year only 43 per cent found the parameter to be Critical, reveals that Professionalism is high on their agenda.
Not surprisingly, brands like Business Standard, The Hindu and Star Plus score high on this parameter.
Lapses on the parameter could occur when there is no coordination between two teams in an organisation. For example, if the programming team decides to change the time of the programme at the last minute or decides to go clean (without advertisements) to gain GRPs and fails to inform the sales person. Another example that media decision makers give is of spots being dropped at the last minute. “Spots often get dropped during peak seasons, when some other advertiser offers a better rate. And Radio is the biggest defaulter on this part,” says Suresh Shah, Vice President - Investment, Allied Media, adding, “If you are big spender throughout the year, then may be you can control the rate in the peak seasons.”
Not only media decision makers but advertisers too complain often about their ads being dropped at the last moment. Here too, the processes of a media brand are questioned again. Amit Tiwari, General Manager, Country Head Media, Philips India, says, “Process is what makes you more worried. Sometimes, you have to put in a lot of effort to just ensure that the creative is actually carried until it goes to print.”
Media, unlike other industries is evaluated on a daily basis and from content to content. Eventually, the salience and satisfaction that a brand enjoys with the end-consumer (be it the advertisers or the viewers/readers/listeners) is directly proportional to the servicing ability of the media brand. This ability can be defined as the ability to deliver solutions and living on promises. Is the organisation quick to respond and is it easily accessible?
And Servicing Ability is a direct fall out of the processes of an organisation. If we look at the charts (inside) closely, majority of the brands that are the toppers in their genre on the Professionalism chart, are the toppers on the Servicing Ability table too.
This year, Servicing Ability is the third most ‘Critical’ parameter for media planners and buyers, while choosing a media brand. Thirty eight per cent of the respondents as against only 26 per cent last year, find ‘Servicing Ability’ to be a ‘Critical’ factor. Last year, ‘Innovation’ was the third most ‘Critical’.
According to Sumeet Pahwa, DGM - Media, Tata DoCoMo, “Serviceability is emerging as an important factor as the number of media brands has grown fast. The ability to deliver a solution attracts us the most. If your media partner is providing solutions and ROI - both at the same time, nothing beats it.”
Add to that accountability. Vidyadhar Kale, Head of Vodafone, Maxus, says, “Servicing is the bread and butter of any media company. However, accountability of the media houses is missing, at times. They never come with a concrete presentation that can tell us how far they have achieved our clients’ targets.”
He also feels that since the economy is back on track, the focus is off delivery. “Recession over, I want softer pampering too done. Hence, we can see the focus on servicing ability on the rise.”
Another question that media decision makers ask is: Is the brand innovative, and does it offer customised solutions, ensuring maximum visibility to my brand? Innovation, a much used, and somewhat abused word in the industry, is sought after by media planners, as they look for value and differentiation, especially in a cluttered media environment. Innovation is about engaging the consumers in a different way altogether. Thus innovations are a function of this need and play an important role.
According to Abhishek Jain, Vice President, Lintas Media Group, “Innovation plays a very important role right from the time you go for a pitch. Innovation breaks the clutter amongst the number of media brands and options we have.”
The parameter has gone down on the preference of media decision makers. Only 23 per cent of the respondents, as against 38 per cent, last year, find it to be critical. Pahwa of Tata DoCoMo tries to solve the riddle. “No denying that innovation is important, but the basis has to be the Servicing Ability of the brand,” he says.
If not Critical, Innovation is still ‘Important’ for 68 per cent of the respondents, as against 57 per cent, last year. Brands like Times of India, Star Plus, Dainik Jagran and Big FM score high on the parameter. Most of these organisations have specialised verticals like the Times Activations (of The Times of India group), Jagran Solutions of Jagran and Big Live of Big FM, that help create innovative ideas for clients.
The recent Volkswagen innovation in Times of India (TOI), is one example - how an innovation can have an impact. “Though it took five months for TOI to work and execute the recent talking newspaper creative for Volkswagen. But then it had a huge impact on sales as well,” says Jain.
However, there is a consensus among media decision makers that something offered repeatedly, isn’t any more an ‘Innovation’. Anindya Ray, General Manager, Lodestar UM, says, “Innovation is something that is going to make fun with my consumers. My view is that the jackets and likes are done to death. I would rather call the jacket an impact, rather than innovation.”
Also, at times, innovation comes as a strategy from the agency’s end, rather than from the media brand owner. For example, FMCG products, which need round the year advertising, but even greater visibility towards the end and the beginning of a month. Agencies sometimes decide to advertise during those critical weeks rather than throughout the month. But this is not an innovative solution that the brand owner has helped the agency reach. However, Kale defends the trend by saying that media houses by default are not in the business of bringing innovation. “They are there for content generation and making money and probably get the proper yield for the given time or space. Newspapers, for example, never do it for the sake of innovation, but because they make money out of it. And they could charge a premium for that innovation,” he says.
At the same time, he supports the view that media planners and media owners need to work together to find innovative solutions. “Clients are becoming open to innovation and they are even ready to pay a premium for that. If we work closely with the media houses, we may probably come with many more innovative ideas that could sound more meaningful than what we play on today. You have an idea and you pay the price, they will do the right thing for you,” he says.
Innovations truly deliver value to a brand only when there is a fit with the channel environment and the context and when the innovation has a reason for existence. It would however, be futile to think that each brand or media platform can innovate with equal vigour and effectiveness.
Sales Team’s Knowledge
The sales team is the face of the brand and the first point of contact between the brand and its clients and media planners. Instead of focusing on just ‘striking a deal’, media brands are beginning to move towards ‘providing viable solutions’ and ‘creating value’ for their clients.
The question - Does the sales team understand the media environment and advertiser/brand needs? - is quite Important for media decision makers.
In fact 73 per cent of the respondents in the survey, find the parameter to be an ‘Important’ factor, up from 68 per cent last year. Also, the number of respondents calling it ‘Critical’ too has gone up from 14 per cent to 21 per cent.
Media planners and buyers, today, just don’t expect numbers from a sales team. There are two dimensions to the parameter (Sales Team’s Knowledge) – knowledge of their medium, as well as knowledge of the advertisers’ business. The parameter plays a great role, particularly if the numbers (TAM/IRS/RAM) are low for the media brand.
“Media house’s knowledge about the advertisers is very important. If a media house doesn’t understand my clients’ category, I wouldn’t be able to take the discussion forward. They should be capable of talking in the advertisers’ language as well,” says Jha of TME.
“We also do a lot of homework before we approach them and they should reciprocate in a similar manner,” she adds.
Media decision makers are united in pointing out that there is a talent crunch in the industry, especially in the sales division. One of the things that media owners are not leveraging on is the understanding of consumers. For example, senior people in the sales team may have an understanding of today’s youth, but then a young team member might understand the needs and demands of this segment better. “The knowledge of the medium or understanding of sales team about their medium is not getting translated to the agencies. If it does happen, it is an added advantage for all the parties,” says Kale.
How is my relationship with the organisation (mutual trust, comfort level)? Would I take the deal forward on the basis of relationship? The parameter asks these questions. There are no two questions bout it that maintaining a warm relationship definitely helps. Explaining things becomes a lot easier if the media planners and managers enjoy a good relationship.
Relationship, however is a ‘Critical’ factor only for eight per cent of the respondents. They wouldn’t take the deal forward, merely on relationship. At times, sales executives approach the planners, without any plan and try and get a leeway on basis of relationships. With so much money at stake, all stakeholders agree that cordial relationships will perhaps only help a brand get an audience with greater ease; but given today’s regime of ROIs, it is not possible to sell only on the basis of relationships. “Yes, we respect the relationship and understand the target of the media houses. But then we think twice before spending on them,” says Das, adding, “Relationship can’t be the only reason to spend on a particular brand. We are also accountable on what we spend and how we spend our clients’ money.”
If not Critical, Relationship, is yet ‘Important’ for 72 per cent of the respondents. ROI apart, relationships help in exchange of ideas and a better understanding of the medium and the clients’ demands. Says Jha, “A good relationship is important for both of us (planners/buyers and the media owners). Even if we are not doing a business with them, we exactly know what they are going to do and avail a chance to associate again with their initiatives. Also, we get to exchange our experiences and knowledge to develop better understanding.”
At times relationships also help in getting a spot, particularly in the peak season. This however, can both make or mar relationships. Tyagi gives an example of Times of India, where there is a fight every second day for the front and second page. “I don’t think they are wrong somewhere. If you go to them with a particular skew to a season, they get a particular opportunity of making money out of it. But finally they lose out on good relationship,” he says. But he is quick to add, “But then vice-versa is equally true. You will also be ruthless to them, tomorrow, if there is a slag. You won’t be that lenient to them.”
In Relationship, one needs to know where to draw a line and work in the interest of the brand. It is also critical that the stakeholders are honest in their approach to their partners.
The Way Ahead
Eventually, it is a mix of parameters that works in making the right decisions, as according to Joshi, “When you are driven by the numbers only, professionalism goes for a toss. And when you maintain a relationship, innovation goes for a toss. You have to strike a balance with all.”
According to Jha, the agencies and the media managers need to work closely. “There should be efforts from both the sides. They should also understand the need of the brands,” she says.
In the following pages, we’ll delve deeper into each genre, and take a view of the media owners too, what they do to achieve their goals and where do they think they can improve.
But before we move on, here’s how Prashant Pandey, CEO, Radio Mirchi, reacts to the study. He feels that the ultimate proof of any relationship is in terms of the actual business transactions that happen between media owners and media agencies, and it would be unfair to ask the buyers to rate the sellers when one of the biggest considerations in this business is the pricing charged by sellers? “Would it be fair to ask media sellers to rate buyers? And if that was done, don’t you think that sellers would be influenced by the kind of pricing they get from buyers?” he says.
Moving ahead, we at Pitch have plans to take the survey to Kolkata and Chennai, next year, and increase the sample size. ?
Qualitative: Several in-depth interviews were conducted among media planners/buyers and advertisers to understand the parameters they consider while selecting media for their plan.
Quantitative: Basis the findings from the qualitative study, a structured questionnaire was designed. The questionnaire was pre-tested among two target respondents. Based on the feedback, the questionnaire was fine-tuned and a quantitative study was conducted.
The survey was conducted among media planners/buyers and advertisers who have more than two years of work experience in their profession.
The survey was then hosted on exchange4media.com, India’s leading media portal. The online questionnaire had two sections – Section-I, the screening section enabled us to screen the eligible respondents. Section-II – The main interview section. One third of the total sample was achieved ‘online’.
The remaining interviews were conducted face-to-face with the target respondents in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. The data collection work was carried out in April, May and June of this year. In total, 303 media decision makers were surveyed in the three cities.
Post Survey Round Table Conferences: Two round table conferences were held in Delhi and Mumbai with key media decision makers to validate the outcome of the survey.
Scale Used for Measuring Expectations
The media decision makers were asked to rate the six parameters as Critical (I would definitely select the media brand that performs better on this); Important (I would probably select the media brand that performs better on this score); Not so Important (I would consider many other aspects and not just this one before choosing a media brand); and Irrelevant (This parameter is irrelevant to me and it doesn’t matter to me how media brands are performing on this parameter).