A drop of blood is enough to test DNA, says Sunil Lulla on TV audience measurement model
The BARC CEO was speaking to Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, as part of the Visionary Talk series
Countering the controversy over criticism that the TV audience measurement system is based on a miniscule sample size when the population of India is so vast, BARC India CEO Sunil Lulla opted for the analogy of how a single drop of blood is enough to test a person’s DNA.
Lulla was in a live conversation with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now. He spoke on a range of issues including the audience measurement model, advertising, TV and digital platforms, during the Visionary Talk series held by the public policy and governance analysis platform.
“A drop of blood can give your entire DNA, for which I don’t need to pull five litres of blood out of your body. It’s a sample and a sample is the representation of the universe. It is supposed be the projected estimate of how the universe behaves,” said Lulla.
Putting up a strong defence for the measurement system in place, Lulla said that it was one of the largest samples in the world and built taking into consideration all the key factors that influence viewing and is being certified by enough audit firms and statistical institutes both Indian and international. He also said that the stakeholders are not ready to pay for a larger sample size.
“At the end of the day you want to do a sample which is a million homes instead of 50,000 homes. Somebody has to pay for it...we are a stakeholders’ body…our stakeholders are not interested in paying for it...there may be individuals who have different opinions but the stakeholders are not interested in paying for a larger sample because it does not create for a better return or the economics. There is a percentage you pay for the measurement of investment in your business. An advertiser who advertises Rs 5-10 crore on TV will only pay an X amount to the media agency or for measurement of its advertising. A broadcaster whose job is to gain audiences of a certain kind and get monetised for audiences will pay only an X amount for measurement...and what is the benefit for that? So, the channel which may have lower presence in any of the stake samples needs to appreciate variability in their data…,” said Lulla.
“The weekday, prime time manic hyper-competition, who started this and why was this started? Advertisers don’t behave like this. In this time period when we are not releasing news data… volumes of advertising on news channels have only gone up… advertisers are smart enough to know what channels to choose and what data to use… and their partner agencies are extremely smart in making these choices. We should not discount this smartness. I believe the sample size we have today is right.”
The industry veteran with over 35 years of experience across media, digital, music, advertising and the FMCG sector said that he was not averse to increasing the sample size by 100%. “Let somebody pay for it and understand the benefits of it.”
While speaking on advertising, Lulla said in March 2020 there was a considerable amount of advertising but even though there was a peak in viewership there was a trough of advertising. That gap has never been seen before. Now advertising volume is back (with large spends on hygiene, digital including gaming and education) and higher as compared to last year. Advertising values will take some time to get back to original levels, he added.
On digital advertising, he said that in the US, digital advertising has overtaken TV advertising and by 2030 it is likely to be the case in India too as it is already growing at a fast pace here. “It is the question of quality of service, the economic situation and how people choose to access their phones…it’s about screen time. There will be a growth in advertising, in digital advertising in very big numbers in the next few years.”
On TV, he said TV was sustaining and not dropping. TV is still the best medium to reach a mass campaign across Indian households and if it continues to attract certain sizeable niches, TV will sustain itself. While YouTube is an ocean, Lulla said that curated content and OTT will take time to grow in that respect. “The content of TV has to change to take on the battle against digital. There will be a Mahabharat between TV and OTT.”
Lulla said that advertising stimulates demand and plays a very important role in the Indian economy. Comparing it with the US where he said advertising is 3% of the GDP, in India, it is only about 0.4%, which is less than half of America and still got a long way to go. “A developed economy has 1% ratio between advertising and GDP. Advertising influences people and the Indian market will have a market for both subscription-based services and content with ads. Subscription-based services may reach out to 25 million people. For 75% of India, the masses, this is the only way to inform, educate, share and entertain, share and educate. We have headroom to grow,” said Lulla.
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