The Pioneer apparently sent a letter to a few of its clients offering them a special rate for direct releases and not from any advertising agency.
The text of this letter (supposedly sent by CMYK Printech) reads, “We have an official tie-up with Veer Arjun, Rashtra ka Vidhan, Hari Bhoomi and Shah Times for fulfilling your Hindi Publishing requirements. We are pleased to offer you our special discounted package rates for the statutory requirement advertisement for financial category.” After mentioning the special rates it is offering, it continues, “All the rates mentioned above are applicable only in case of direct releases and not from any advertising agency.”
However, the ‘Advertisement Ethics and Code of Medical Standards of Indian New Paper Society’, mentions among other things: ‘Society members shall not favour direct advertisers by giving them better facilities such as lower rates, longer credit periods, preferential positions, commissions, discounts and supplying artwork at nominal rates.’ And also, ‘Member papers shall not give commission, or any form of rebate to any direct advertiser. Any advertising agency not accredited or a canvasser may be allowed commission not exceeding 10%.’
Giving reference to the above code of conduct, Pravin K Ujjain, Director, Feedback Communication, Delhi sent a letter to Chandan Mitra, Managing Director, CMYK Printech Ltd., which, in addition to talking about 15% agency commission being offered through a mailer directly to the clients, states, “With our continuous follow up yielding nothing and passage of nearly six months, we find that our clients are still being lured with the said discount to break away from us.”
Ujjain claims that he did not get any response to the above-mentioned letter from Mitra. He also states that he followed it up with a letter to INS President M. P. Veerendrakumar, Deputy President Pradeep Guha and Vice President Hormusji N. Cama. However, he is yet to receive a response from them.
So, what does Pioneer have to say on the subject? When contacted by exchange4media, Durbar Ganguly, Director, CMYK denied that the letter has been sent to all The Pioneer clients en masse but it pertains only to Feedback clients. He states, “The issue is only related to a particular agency, which is not even an accredited agency. They were pushing for another publication package at very low rate for obvious reasons. If you are talking of ethics would you call it an ethical practice?” He adds, “They were pushing us to offer them 30% discount which was not approved by our management.”
He continues, “It is issued to only certain Feedback clients who advertise for audited and financial results. It does not pertain to any other agency or any other category. We have excellent relationship with ad agencies and we follow the industry norms.”
But as per the INS guide book, cutting off advertising agency is not ethical. Ganguly retorts, “Issue is not cutting an ad agency. One needs to keep in mind, even when we get ads due to the hard work of our own resources, we are forced to dole out commission, and we do that. You can’t really blame us of unethical practices!”
And then he draws attention to a leading daily. He states, “A leading English daily gives same ad rates for colour as well as black & white ads. They do not charge a premium for colour ads. No other paper in the country is allowed to do the same. Everyone adopts strategies best suited to them.”
Let us now look at what PK Lahiri, the Secretary General, INS, has to say on the issue. “If a publication offers discount, we can’t really interfere. What Pioneer is doing might not be ethical but many other publications are also doing it. Whatever points you are making about INS handbook, it is just a moral code and we cannot enforce it.”
He adds, “If an accredited agency formally writes to us, we can send a polite letter to the publication asking them to look into the matter.” And what if it is the agency which is not abiding by INS guide book? Replies Lahiri, “If it is a noncredited agency, we can’t do much about it, but if it is an accredited agency we can come down heavily on them.”
Well. About time media practitioners in the country formed a strong association of their own, which has equal might as the INS. What say?