The final session of the maiden NewsNext conference raised a pertinent point – the ratio of non-news content on news channels is increasing. NewsNext 2008, held in Delhi on August 22, was presented by Times Now. Moderating the session, NDTV Profit’s Shruti Verma Singh quoted research to point out that 54 per cent content on Hindi news channels was non-news, while 38 per cent content on English news channels was not news. In session brought the marketers under the scanner to speak on whether money spends were bullish on news as a medium and why. The panellists included R Chandrashekhar (better known as Chandru), Head – Brand and Media, Bharti Airtel; Ranju Kumar Mohan, VP – Marketing (Laundry & Home Care) Henkel; Ravi Kiran, CEO, South East and South, Asia Starcom Mediavest Group; and Milind Pant, Chief Marketing Officer, Yum!.
Marketers don’t stand in judgement of content…
… or so was the crux of the discussion between the marketers in the first half of the discussion. Though Ravi Kiran was quick to state that it didn’t mean that marketers or him in particular were “pro-objectionable content”, but there were a few factors that together resulted in marketers not standing in judgment of the kind of content that their ads were seen in. Singh brought in various examples to illustrate how leading brands were seen on shows like ‘Maut Ka Mobile’ and similar examples on news channels.
Ravi Kiran and Chandru argued out that it was beyond a marketer’s control to know all the content around which the marketer’s ads were placed. Chandru explained, “It is not very clear what an environment does to an advertiser or whether, in fact, the consumer correlates the brand with the content around it. It is extremely important to judge this in two ways. You have to get to the consumers, and there has to be brand relevance there.”
Speaking in context to Hindi news, Chandru said, “News channels have increased and so have the ads, which are all very clear points that say that advertisers are putting money in the segment. I would like to step back and go back to news. The deciding point is what the brand is about, and who the brand is speaking to.”
Milind Pant chipped in here saying that the consumer was at the centre of this debate, and where a marketer finally put his money on depended on the brand-content fit leading to the relevant TG. He explained, “If I had to give an example of a brand where the core target audience is 25-35 years old, the English content channels like English news and
English entertainment make immense sense since the stickiness is there.” Ranju K Mohan, too, was of the opinion that the brand brief was very important. He said, “If that is a starting point, it would go into the next step of media vehicles that can give you relevant target audience for that brand.”
Ravi Kiran brought out the difference here between the content that marketers put their money on and the content that they funded. He said, “It is not the marketer’s job to stand in judgment on what the viewer should watch. For example, if a new channel would show an ‘X’ amount of porno content, marketers have their lines drawn and it is different for different people. But news programming is not funded by marketers, it is funded by the programmers. If it is advertiser-funded programming, then the case is different.” Kiran made it clear that there are some marketers who would stay out of some stations, and that is fine. However, not everyone stays out.
“If the marketer made a bad product, then he is responsible. If it was about environment, then again he can be held for it, but not for creative content that insults people,” Kiran added.
Innovations on news: To do or not to do
One would have thought that innovations on news channels would have meant something good. The subject came under scrutiny in this panel, and the takeaway wasn’t what one would have expected. Joining the panel on this subject from the audience was Raj Nayak, CEO, NDTV Media. Nayak pointed out that many advertisers and agencies approached channels saying ‘give me something new’. Even EMVIES was brought into the discussion here, as another reason for media agencies to create innovations.
Ravi Kiran said here, “We have to be very careful while using the word ‘innovation’, because it is very easy for people to start bastardisation of content on the pretext of innovation. Innovation in India had started by getting something, by and large, free. Very few clients pay for it, and that is an acid test in itself. Anything that was intrusive was synonymous with innovation.”
He added that innovations made a difference to the brands, but at the same time reiterated, “90 per cent of what happens in the name of innovations today is really just intrusion”.
Speaking on innovations, Milind Pant pointed out, “There are only two things that matter to us – the brand and the message. Your message reaches your consumer in the best possible way, if advertising is the way, so be it. There is no argument like whether the brands are innovating or not.” Ranju Kumar Mohan pointed out that there could be ways in which brands could innovate on the news genre as well, but sometimes the point was about waiting for the right opportunity. Chandru cited the example of Airtel’s ‘Breaking Barriers’ innovation here, wherein Airtel leveraged a certain cricket instance, wherein the brand message fit with the news at the time aptly.
Medium is the message
Editorial integrity was discussed again here, where Raj Nayak pointed out that marketers should realise their social responsibility by at least taking a stand that some kind of content was not agreeable. Chandru put the ball back in Nayak’s court and asked, “Who makes that assessment?” To Nayak’s point that the irony of the fact was that brand managers who pumped in crores of rupees on TV did not watch what they were buying, Kiran said, “Before the dollar was spent, the content was made.”
The broadcasters and media agencies aren’t always the best of friends, and Ravi Kiran and Raj Nayak took the debate forward during this session, wherein Kiran said that the news genre was all of over 6 per cent of television viewing in India. It was not about to command more than a certain percentage of interest.