Over the last two decades, I have been in the business of parking moneys for brands. In these media journeys, the GRP has been the sacred cow, the ultimate benchmark of evaluating progress. It’s always had a holier than thou perception, thanks to the bequeathing by the fair skinned gentlemen who coined the term and the logic.
The GRP or Gross Rating Point came into existence some decades ago in the western markets, and was the only measurement for television viewing. It was accepted by the client and the media agencies alike. So, media planners chased this variable as their lives depended on it and if they came anywhere close to the set benchmark, it was party time.
Since change has been the only constant in our lives, and the fact that historical right answers were being questioned, I thought it will be worth our while if we revisited the credibility and sanctity of this benchmark.
So, to start with what are GRPs? Simply put, it is a multiple of the rating of the programme (TRP) and frequency of spots or number of spots. TRP will be defined as the percentage of people watching a particular programme of a specified platform (cable, satellite or terrestrial) in a specific market at a given point of time.
So simple; but the critical thing to understand is that it is an evaluation of percentages. This is where the catch lies. A certain percentage figure on a certain base could completely differ if the base changes and this is the reality that we all are myopic to.
To understand this, better let’s look at a category like ‘milk based health beverages’. The South and East regions of India are historically milk shortage areas and hence, prime focus in media for health beverage brands and higher GRP generated, the better it is. We ignore the fact that Tamil Nadu as a state has a very high cable and satellite penetration in both rural and urban areas, whereas West Bengal in terms of cable and satellite penetration is almost half of that of Tamil Nadu in percentages. So, classically if both states are equally important in terms of volume generated and also in terms of growth, then the same GRP level would actually be half in West Bengal than that of Tamil Nadu. This means that West Bengal would actually get half the media intensity of Tamil Nadu. More simply put, the brand contribution could be almost double in West Bengal if the same intensity is maintained.
Therefore, because of the GRP measurement, you will generally have a market which sees excess investments and another one, which will be under invested.
The CPGRP Trap
The cost per GRP is simply the GRPs delivered over a period of time divided by the plan cost for the same period. It is generally indexed at 10 seconds value, even though there is no hard and fast rule about it. In my book, this indexing is not a wise thing to do as the logic would be “if you could do it with a 30 seconder commercial, then why go in for a 50 seconder?” It’s all about comprehension and hence, should be the outlay cost versus the total GRPs.
The Right Way
Now, if we were to connect the same GRP levels for two markets, say Market ‘A’ having a base of 10 lakh consumers and Market ‘B’ with a base of 5 lakh consumers. Assuming that on a national plan outlay of Rs100 million is spent, then Market A on the same GRP level is doubly cost efficient than Market B. But, if you were to evaluate the two markets on a GRP and CPGRP benchmark, they would be seen as identical. Hence, actual consumers reached will give you the real story.
Why does Print not follow GRPs?
When we evaluate print, then we look at actual readers and the cost of reaching each reader. This method actually outlines the utility value of each vehicle, but when we evaluate television, we look at a combination of vehicles within a medium to drive that reach level. Each programme is a vehicle, and normally it’s a combination of programmes that completes a plan on television. This is where we go wrong when we look at percentages (GRPs) for convenience, whereas it is very much possible to look at consumers reached on television for each programme or for a set of programmes. This would be the correct way, and when we do this, we will realise the overexposure in an underperforming market and the underinvested in a fast growing market will come to light. It will always result is lesser moneys to do a more effective job and drive better ROI. It is just an extra effort to convert those percentages into actual numbers reached. This seldom happens and hence, we thrive to bring efficiency in the plans, whereas our job should be to drive effectiveness in the market.
Where and why did the problem originate?
I know life does not have a rewind button, but if we try to look at the basics when GRP came into India, we will realise that the fallacy, and maybe, the under relevance. The term was valid when you looked at one market and not a combination of markets. So, London was good enough for Great Britain to be evaluated, so were Singapore and Hong Kong. These cities were the countries as well, but when the jargon came to India, we saw one mega Europe. Each state was different in composition, so was each city in traits and character, apart from the quantifiable parameters. But we continued to use them as it was unquestionable knowledge bequeathed.
So, why would changing this method or relooking at it be like pushing water uphill?
Tried talking to a brand manager of a successful multinational company engaged in the business of marketing impulsive, low value, fiercely competitive products in India? I did and I was asked to abstain from discussing any further as it would not work. Nobody wants to question the accepted basics and get his job in jeopardy. The lesson I learnt was that corporate crusaders are not welcome as it ruffles many feathers. Maybe the time has come for sane planners and clients to move on from being a routine media planner to a media shaper for markets. Hence, my endeavour through this column.
(‘Gopi’ as he is fondly known, has been in the advertising and media business for over two decades. His journey has taken him through destinations like the Anandabazar Group, Mudra Communications, Lowe Lintas, Leo Burnett and TBWA. In this journey, he has worked on a host of consumer, corporate, service and media brands. He has served on various panels of measurement and has been published as a syndicated columnist in various business and trade press. The fourth estate has always trusted his expert views on the media and advertising business. Strongly believes that in a competitive and growing economy like India, historical correct answers will not work and hence the onus on marketers to be innovative and redefine rules of the game. He spends time as a ‘visiting faculty’ at Jaypee Business School, as it keeps him connected with youngsters. For the last 18 months, Gopi has been off the advertising and media radar, as he was attending to a medical emergency at home. He has set up his own media consultancy. Responses and inquiries are welcome at email@example.com.)