The 2017 edition of the Pitch Madison Advertising Report was released last week at the ITC Grand Central in Mumbai. On the sidelines of the launch a panel discussion was held on the topic; ‘What advertisers are getting wrong?’
The session was moderated by Arnab Goswami, MD & Co-founder of Republic TV. The panel consisted of Punit Misra, CEO (Domestic Broadcast Business ) at Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL), S Sivakumar, President (Revenue) at Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd., Avinash Pandey, COO at ABP News Network Pvt. Ltd. and Pradeep Dwivedi, CEO of Sakal Media Group.
Goswami started off the proceedings by taking a humorous turn. He said to the audience that the topic of debate is “not whether advertisers are wrong but what they are doing wrong”, already proving at the onset that we are right (in thinking that advertisers must be doing something wrong)
Starting the debate, Sivakumar opined, “TV and digital is the future. No one reads print anymore. I think the days are gone when we used to get things right. Progressively, you can only get things less wrong. Today what we are facing are multi-dimensional options.” Comparing print to main course and digital to desserts (which you don’t want to miss out on), he said that advertisers do want to have them but they will take whatever others are having due to a network effect. “The wholesome nature of print is never going to disappear,” he added.
Pandey opined that the young generation is changing and this generation watches TV and debates on the digital platform. He further stated that print would mainly be read for informative and intellectual articles. “If newspapers survive in this form then it is better otherwise there is no future (for it),” he said.
However, Dwivedi was of the opinion that people have been writing epitaphs for print for the last two decades, ever since the Internet came into existence. “This is a very unidimensional and metro-centric view of our country. I think people are missing out on the fact that there is a vast majority of people who are demographically in locations where digital has not made its presence felt and where a variety of local news and content is not available in their language of choice. It is all about recognising this audience. The cheapest and most credible source of news for the audience is still print. We might call it a sub-prime audience but talk to any marketer which is the best means of accessing newer market opportunities; it is these newer geographies that are emerging and print is ideally suited for this,” he said.
To this Goswami countered whether advertisers are wrong to allocate higher spends on print. Dwivedi replied that advertisers need to take a more balanced view of all mediums that are available.
“Where I think advertisers might be getting it wrong is that each medium is thought to be delivering a certain number and what is missing in this is thinking is are we using the medium as a brand to connect with the consumer in keeping with the brand strategy and how each medium can be best used. They maybe somewhere we will find that print works better in some cases while digital works better in other cases. But I think the missing link is that everyone is just thinking cost and cost per reach but not really about brand strategy and the one thing that everyone should be thinking about is how are they going to get long term emotional connect with the consumer. Maybe these are the questions that we need to see put out more in boardrooms and media conversations,” said Misra.
Goswami gave the example of sports and news channels, two mediums that he says advertisers measure success on impact and not necessarily reach. “Let us talk about conversations. Does print start conversations? Does digital alone start conversations or does television start conversations on social media? I do not think that advertisers are only looking at reach numbers because otherwise the story of IPL and news channels would be very different,” he asked the panel members.
“I think a large part of business, particularly from FMCG, is bought on CPRP on a daily basis. That is where some of the niche news channels are getting marginalised. If I go by CPRP rates, any evening show on primetime delivers 0.1 per cent or 0.01 per cent of the total audience but you ask anyone whether they recognise a particular anchor and they will. In any sample size there is a set consumer behaviour around what they are looking for. Unfortunately, according to the data and set standards, most marketers are not ready to take a punt. They will only take punt when it is about stature, for example, the IPL is all about stature. On the other hand if you have a debate about elections and you get 10,000 phone calls during the show but still advertisers will not be interested in putting their money there because the rating percentage is low,” explained Pandey.
Sivakumar further added that advertising is a very creative medium and that audiences interact with content based on their likes and not due to ‘numbers’. “If you convert this business, which is an art, into science and reduce it to the least common denominator of numbers and TRPs, you are obviously going to get it wrong. You have to bring back the romance of creativity, you have to bring back audience engagement. Audience does not look at numbers in any medium, they are looking at something that gives them joy, gives them pleasure. Every medium has an innate appeal and strength. How do brands and advertisers collaborate and with the power of technology, I would not want to call it digital, apply it to every medium and how do you move away from making it what I call the least common denominator measurement. Don’t make it a victim of numbers, TRPs,” he said.
When Goswami asked Sivakumar, “Are you talking of brand solutions?”, he replied,“ No, but brands are responsible to be relevant and contextual to deliver what the audience wants. Print’s strength today is curated content because the Internet is cluttered.”
Dwivedi opined that one of the challenges before marketers today is that creative thinking in print has become a subset of television way of thinking. He felt that spending 40 per cent of marketing budgets on print without spending time and effort on the creative process is a wasted opportunity by marketers. He said, “Of course advertising is an art but there are also numbers in it, there is some science to it too.” According to him, the legacy mindset of print media planning continues to prevail in the industry.
However, Goswami was of the opinion that video would be the future, driven by falling data rates and a younger generation. Goswami said, “We dumped the Blackberry in India much quicker than the US did despite it coming to our country much later than it did in the US. India is urbanising much faster than we thought it would. The rate of change and accelerated social change in India is massive. The future is video.”
Sivakumar said that print is not going anywhere. Even though people are active on Whatsapp and read on Kindle, the way we absorb and imbibe knowledge is primarily through print. He added, “The day a kid goes to school with an electronic device is the day I will start worrying about print. It is how are brains are wired. To this Goswami asked, “Is nostalgia a very bad business model?”
Speaking about the continued relevance of print, Dwivedi informed the audience that despite being a digitally savvy country, the top three newspapers in terms of circulation are from Japan.
On the topic of data, Pandey agreed with other panellists that data should just give direction and should not be the only factor that advertisers should concentrate on and that innovation is the name of the game. “The conversation should be around brand value,” reiterated Misra.