‘BARC ratings are credible. Cross-media measurement to be rolled out next year’

Sunil Kataria, Chairman of Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and CEO of Raymond Lifestyle, speaks to e4m ahead of the ISA Global CEO Conference

e4m by Kanchan Srivastava
Published: Aug 19, 2022 8:11 AM  | 5 min read
sunil kataria

The Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) is all set to host the ISA Global CEO Conference on August 22. exchange4media caught up with Sunil Kataria, Chairman of ISA and CEO of Raymond Lifestyle, to talk about the conference. During the conversation, Kataria also shared his views on a host of issues, including the controversy surrounding the BARC ratings and the plan to start cross media measurement for TV channels. 

Excerpts from the conversation: 

You are completing your sixth term at ISA. How far have you succeeded in meeting ISA objectives and what are the fresh challenges before you?

My journey started with preparing a blueprint to make ‘ISA future-ready’. ISA has a big role to play in the future because it is the only voice of advertisers who control nearly two third of non-government advertisements. We identified six-seven areas to work on, such as- unified measurement of cross media, brand safety concerns, need to become a stronger influencing voice in regulatory framework, and data management. It is a work in progress. 

Earlier, ISA didn’t have any full-timer and all board members were doing their bit along with managing their own work. We hired a full-time CEO two years back. Now, things are moving faster. We are working closely with the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) on some common goals like creating cross media measurement. 

A lot has changed over the past couple of years across the world. What are the emerging trends in advertising/marketing in India? How different is it from the global scene?

The pandemic came as a life-altering event for all of us. Indian consumers are much more conscious and sensitive about the environment now. Businesses were not prepared to handle this fundamental change and psychological shift among consumers. Brands are now revamping their strategy to remain relevant. 

In the west, consumers were already sensitive about the environment due to higher educational and awareness levels. Only context has changed there. 

Due to multiple Covid waves, inflation and other factors, there is a lot of uncertainty in the market. How can brands tackle VUCA- volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity?

Our third Global CEO Conference, which is slated to be held on Monday in Mumbai, aims to address these challenges only. The theme is in fact VUCA 2.0. 

Our first global conference was held in 2013 whose theme was ‘VUCA’. It addressed the challenges of that decade. In 2019, our theme was ‘Digital’ as a significant amount of ad spend had started shifting to digital platforms. 

VUCA 2.0 seeks to address the fresh challenges before the marketers posed by the pandemic as well as the geopolitical factors. While the pandemic itself has caused multiple shifts in societal fabric and economy, the interconnectedness of the world is causing ripple effects on the economy, commodity prices, inflation and fuel prices across the world following Ukraine-Russia war, repeated lockdown of ports and towns in China owing to multiple Covid waves and other incidents. 

We have invited top leaders such as Nitin Paranjpe, Unilever's Chief People & Transformation Officer, Shailesh Jejurikar - Chief Operating Officer - Procter & Gamble, and Raja Rajamannar of Mastercard who is the WFA President, in the conference to share their cross cultural experiences. 

A lot has been written about what broadcasters feel about BARC but very little comes from advertisers. Channels are still complaining that measurement methods are not robust and credible. Some news channels have even pulled out of BARC. What is your view on BARC ratings?

I don’t want to comment on channels who decided to pull out, but BARC ratings are credible, their measurement is quite robust. The BARC technical committee ensures all checks and balances to maintain complete neutrality. Advertisers pay for what India watches. BARC measurements tell us what India is watching; who is watching and what.  

How far has the ISA succeeded in creating a cross media measurement for TV channels? 

Cross media measurement is important because a significant amount of ad spend has now shifted to digital platforms. Nowhere in the world there is a unified system that can measure both digital and TV videos combined. We are working very closely with BARC to come up with a unified cross media measurement method. The system will be rolled out in the first half of 2023. 

Of late, many leading brands have faced social media backlash and were boycotted over certain ad campaigns. Are you concerned? 

Freedom of expression is a fundamental right and everyone is entitled to that. However, brands need to be a little cautious and follow the self-regulatory guidelines laid down by ASCI while putting out ad campaigns. Brands have to make a right balance between freedom of speech and self-regulation. 

IRS is pending for two years. What is your stand on this deadlock? 

I would not like to comment on the IRS as of now as I am not updated on this. 

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