Has ‘no measurement’ become the new normal for media industry?

While the ad volumes surged on the news genre by 12% during October-December 2020 (blackout period), print had 73,000 odd exclusive advertisers in the year

e4m by Sonam Saini & Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Jan 28, 2021 8:28 AM

Last year was a watershed year for the Indian media and entertainment industry. Among other challenges faced by the sector, halt of measurement has been a key crisis in the wake of the pandemic-induced lockdown and an ongoing controversy on television ratings. But has the absence of ratings/reach adversely impacted the media industry? Certainly not, said experts.

TV news and newspapers across the country haven’t suffered any significant revenue loss due to the absence of measurement.

TV measurement body Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India is currently under the scanner due to the TRP case and news genre viewership has been at a halt; for now, there is no update on the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) for 2020 which was suspended last year by Media Research Users Council India (MRUC India).

Even though BARC India was in a tight spot last year, TV still continues to be the most important platform for advertisers. “TV has been a strong medium and it's unlikely that the on-going investigation on TRP scam will have any negative impact on other genres,” said a media observer.

In fact, as per TAM AdEx data, the indexed ad volumes surged on the news genre by 12% during October-December (blackout period) when compared to July-September.

Between October 16, 2020, and January 16, 2021. 7 out of 12 weeks saw a positive ad volume growth over its previous week. Week 48, for instance, saw 4% growth when compared to the first week of the blackout. So did Week 50.

“While BARC hasn’t published data for the news genre, viewers haven’t stopped watching news channels. So despite measurability being withdrawn, the fundamentals of the medium remain the same. Most marketers haven’t stopped advertising on their preferred medium even in the absence of ratings. Marketers continue to have their faith in the medium of their choice based on their own observation, analysis and measurement,” said Deepak Sharma, Managing Director, North-Starcom MediaVest Group.

Sharing thoughts on the same, Karan Tauranu, VP, Elara Capital, explained that the largest vertical, i.e FMCG, is heavy on TV because it has organised data that provides all the break-ups of the various channels and also different consumption patterns. He said, “BARC has done a phenomenal job in measuring all the cuts based on different cities and TGs. And since TV has such precise data, it makes the medium favourable for the advertisers.”

While lack of ratings hasn’t impacted ad bills for TV channels, newspapers have gained from the controversy around TRP scam and content toxicity. As a result, the absence of IRS (readership measurement) hasn’t had much impact on their ad sales.

“It is always better to not have any measurement instead of having any faulty measurements because this year there has been no fieldwork that is required for readership assessment for IRS. Having said that, this year has put a spotlight on the credibility of print, and marketers have been investing in the medium the moment circulation was normalised. Negotiating rates have not been a problem with readers coming back to print during the unlock months.  However, we look forward to the next IRS because it will re-establish the popularity of the medium and its reach and access, especially in the Tier II and Tier III cities,” said the marketing head of a leading Hindi daily.

Given the fact that there were 73,000 odd exclusive advertisers on print in 2020 (as per the latest TAM AdEx data), clearly, the absence of readership data didn’t have any significant impact on ad bills of newspapers, especially those in the Indian language space.

Apart from TV and print, other verticals of the media industry don’t have a third-party measurement body, except for radio which is already going through a tough time owing to the digital growth and economic slowdown, and lack of measurement is just an add-on to the challenges that the industry is facing.

The radio measurement system is currently limited to RAM for the four metros which comes weekly, and IRS for the major towns which are quarterly. Though independent research companies like Ipsos, Nielsen, Kantar group, etc. carry out customized research for measurement and brand tracking.

“The radio measurement challenge in India is that we are still using a diary method or other forms of questionnaire-based surveys which are stated responses and hence less accurate. Capturing real-time usage i.e behaviourral data is far more accurate, but that’s currently not the case. Most radio listening in India happens on mobile phones; largely feature phones which do not support app-based tracking,” shared Abe Thomas, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network Limited.

Thomas added, “We may have to combine multiple platforms like app data, digital diary, paper diary, hardware devices to capture ambient sound, etc., to achieve the desired output. AROI & industry research bodies are jointly studying internationally used methodologies for radio measurement and are developing a methodology that will cater to the Indian radio measurement ecosystem.”

Meanwhile, for Out Of Home (OOH), which never had any measurement body, for quite some time now, large individual OOH specialist agencies have their own tools and measurement systems in place and some vendors, especially the DOOH, also provide reach numbers. “Till-date, OOH is lacking a single currency for measurement. To increase the OOH’s share in overall advertising, syndicated numbers are very much required. IOAA is working on this and was in the advanced stage to invite RFP on the measurement system; however, it had to be kept on hold due to sudden lockdown. In fact, for a 360 media campaign also, the total reach calculator is the need of the hour,” explained Jayesh Yagnik, CEO, MOMS Outdoor Media Solutions.

(With inputs from Noel D'Souza)

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