The IRS Q2 2010 is out, with its accompanying issues. And there would be a debate again on whether the IRS really represents the industry properly, especially given that the numbers sometimes are so much at variance with the ground factors and what common sense would dictate to us.
So, let me kickstart this with a few thoughts.
1. Is IRS really an industry currency?
That is the first question, really. The Indian advertising industry comprises more than 7,000 advertisers and 3,000 advertising agencies, while the IRS is used only by a handful of these. Apart from the media houses, just about 20-odd advertisers and 50-odd advertising agencies buy the IRS, and presumably use it. With the overwhelming majority of people who have a stake in this business not buying the IRS, it still has a long way to go before it can really claim to be an industry currency. And the role before the MRUC is to increase the IRS client base significantly, while continuously improving the quality of research.
2. Sample Sizes
Adequate sample size is perhaps the most significant contributing factor towards the quality of research that we would get. While there have been enough claims that the IRS has the largest sample size of any similar research in the world, the question is – Is it really enough?
Sample Sizes, we all know, are a function of the heterogeneity of the population. Does this sample size of 2.5 lakh of the IRS accurately reflect the media habits of one in every six people across the world? More importantly, is it really an adequate size, given the diversity of languages, dialects, food habits, education levels, incomes, working status, religions, cultures, geographies et al, each of which have a significant difference on our media consumption?
Consider Mumbai alone. The Mumbai UA, comprising three districts and multiple towns, covers a universe of 1.65 crore. This small geographic stretch sees probably more languages spoken than the entire four states of South India combined, media in this city is consumed in more languages than possibly all the other metro cities put together.
Can a sample size of barely 8,000 adequately reflect it?
3. Rural Sample
I do understand that increasing sample sizes are dependent upon the investments in the survey by end users, for which I have suggested an increase in the user base. However, till such time, I propose a radical thought – stop the rural study and divert the sample to the larger cities.
After all, how is a sample of 75,000-odd representing more than 75 crore people? In other words, a change in the response of one person will lead to 10,000 people being misrepresented!
Secondly, let us ask ourselves a simple question. How many users are really making their plans based on the rural sample? This sample could be of much better use in enhancing the quality of research in urban areas.
4. Census-Linked Weightage versus Real Growth
India is a fast-growing country. Every passing year sees the transformation of the landscape of entire cities. Cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad are virtually unrecognisable from what they were a decade ago.
In light of this transformation, which is most evidently manifest in the growth of geographical area, calculating the weightage of specific areas on the basis of the 2001 Census can lead to significant errors in calculating the present population weightage. This is most evident in the case of Pune, where the new city, which has grown since 2005 onwards, is completely under-represented.
5. Masthead Recognition
Along with the issue of Census-linked weightage, I believe the masthead recognition method is a significant reason for over-representation of certain publications and under-representation of certain others. Familiarity breeds content, and like the previously used Diary method of TV, the masthead recognition method favours publications that have been in existence for long. It is pertinent that MRUC seeks a solution that would remove this anomaly.
There are various other issues that one considers as inhibiting factors. For instance, I would like to have some dipstick on a monthly basis. But within its limitations, and more significantly, the absence of any other credible readership survey, the IRS is a significant print currency. We have been in regular discussions with MRUC and Hansa Research Group regarding ways and means to improve the survey. And improvements based on the above suggestions as well as others that other industry worthies may have would only help make it stronger.
Lastly, one thought that I would like to leave with the readers is – with the exception of a few number-focussed and software package driven agencies and possibly their clients, clients really do not buy GRPs on print. They are clearly looking for response to their advertising, getting more value for their advertising investments. Virtually all retail advertising happens in this fashion – the more the response, the more the value of the newspaper.
Considering this, should there not be an ‘Indian Response Survey’ of media?