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How often do we pause and ponder about industry issues that have a bearing on our professional routine and thinking? Often the time comes to share insights that can further the common understanding, or, at the very least, point at issues that need to be addressed. View Point - an exchange4media platform - fills this void and has become a source of deeper understanding, introspection and a pointer to new thinking in our domain.

Jaago Grahak Jaago – bring accountability in media


Rajul Kulshreshtha, General Manager, GroupM Team LG

Fundamentally, this article is about an awakening whose time I think has come. It is inspired in part by the ‘Jaago Grahak’ campaign currently on air and partly by personal beliefs. It is not about a clarion call for a mass movement. Rather it is a call for understanding some very fundamental issues that plague the media industry today.

So, what is this fundamental that I am talking about? Simply put, it can be summed up in one word – accountability. Or the lack of it. In an era where accountability is the key – be it in organisations, government, schools, colleges, you name it – there is total lack of it in the media industry. A whopping Rs 9,000 crore and no accountability! And I am not kidding.

Be it a KBC or even and India cricket series, or HT or TOI, this disease is all prevalent and there is no one to question the status quo. But then, the believers will ask me, don’t we have TAM and NRS and IRS? What do these do or stand for? My answer to these believers is yes, there is, but it is more or less a formality (and I am trying to be very polite). Have you ever tried asking any major TV network or publication house about these numbers? And if you did and got an answer in the positive sense, then you are indeed a blessed person! Ratings, readerships, etc., are not tools used for accountability. Some of the ways that these numbers are used are:

· To proclaim that you are No. 1

· To proclaim that you have created a record in the history of Indian TV

· To proclaim that you are the leading newspaper with the highest ever readership

· To proclaim that you are the agency that delivers the lowest CPRP

· And whatever else you might want to proclaim. Even changing agencies because you were not able to deliver the promised land ( read CPRPs).

Try asking the networks or the publications to be accountable to these numbers. And you will no longer be blessed. You would be treated as a pariah, someone you will be told who does not understand the way the media works in this country. You would be looked upon with sheer disdain. And maybe, you would also be told, “Are numbers all that you have to share with us?” Chastised, you return to your Dilbert enclosure wondering what you could possibly do with the numbers on your desktop.

Having done the Dilbert bit and staring into space for as long as you could remember, you suddenly come across “Jaago Grahak Jaago” – a campaign that asks you to stand up for your fundamental rights. You have paid for a service and you should get what is rightfully yours.

You get inspired and wonder what is it that I have asked for? My teachers in the industry taught me that media is all about reaching consumers in the most cost effective fashion. Media I was told is the bridge between the consumer and the communication. That fundamentally, it is the primary and perhaps the only key task of media. The numbers that exist on our desktops are all tools that help us achieve this.

When you think about how media interacts with you using these numbers, you just might get the answer that media is using these numbers to ensure that they are in your media plan. But come a post evaluation of that plan and if you were to fall short of the promises made, then the same media is nowhere to be found and numbers are conveniently dumped on the wayside. Phones are switched off and mails keep bouncing from one end to the other. The end result is that you still end up paying the crores that you had promised media, with only half the audiences reached (if you are lucky).

How long will this go on? How long will media agencies hold the can for media in front of their clients? How long will media continue to operate in the “bhai bandhu” syndrome? Not for long I hope. For if that is the case, then my friends in the research agencies will soon be looking for alternative careers. (And may I suggest Ad Sales as an alternative!)

There has to be a solution to this non-accountability syndrome. I do not profess to have all the answers, but I certainly can suggest a few that I think will help:

· Industry bodies such as AAAI, TAM, NRSC, MRUC, etc., should evolve a code of conduct of operating for media that makes them accountable to the fundamental task – delivering audiences – if not promised, then at least professed.

· Agencies and clients should insist on media deals being accountability led. And benchmarks for the same should be established with all in the loop.

· Media itself should institute an internal process whereby all departments –creative, distribution, etc., -- are given the task of increasing the viewership base. The bonus would then depend on how well has this been achieved.

· Industry bodies could also work on common guidelines on how best the accountability principle can be established.

· And, while CPRP is not a four-letter word, I do believe that the time for this concept has come. Media agencies and media partners should jointly formulate a way of working this out and not only preach it but also practise it.

I do not profess that this list of “Things to do” is comprehensive. However, I do believe that it is a beginning.

Jaago Grahak Jaago. Waqt aa gaya hai!

On an optimistic note:

There will be a day when the numbers will be respected

And business will be done in a manner that will be accepted.

Pakde raho ummeed ki dori

For that my friend is the moral of the story.

(The views expressed in the article are entirely the author's and do not represent his organisation's viewpoint.)

 
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