Investing in landing page: A bona fide marketing activity or unethical practice?
While some broadcasters feel it defies the very objective of digitization, others say it’s a genuine marketing activity
Given the current scenario of Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) policies, there are some broadcasters who are willing to pay huge money to get themselves on landing pages and then there are others who are not willing to do so as they think this is an unethical approach. Many of these broadcasters are of the opinion that TDSAT’s decision to set aside Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) directions, making it legal for television channels to place their ads on landing pages, defies the very objective of digitization. There is, however, another school of thought that considers investing in landing pages a bona fide marketing activity.
“TDSAT is an appellate tribunal. So this is not a ‘TDSAT policy’. It’s a judgment. This is a case that has been heard by them for over six months, with arguments from both sides and they have taken a learned view on the subject. So, this is not a unilateral ‘policy’. We believe that landing pages are a bona fide marketing mechanism,” says MK Anand, MD & CEO, Times Network.
“It’s a transparent commercial option available to everyone. It improves visibility of the channel and improves offtake, just like Bisleri or Colgate in a shop. FMCG companies bid for the best shelf space in shops and supermarkets. It costs money. Similarly, products advertise on prime media such as large newspapers, GECs, news channels and sports channels comes at a high cost. Obviously, only serious players pay and stay in the competition. Calling this ‘unethical’ is like calling advertising on TOI front page or IPL unethical,” Anand adds.
Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP News Network, too believes that investing in landing pages is a marketing activity taken up by broadcasters. He, however, thinks that this promotes forced viewing and thus shouldn’t be a part of BARC’s calculation of ratings.
“This is a direct assault on the freedom of press. There are media companies whose pockets are deep and there are some whose parent companies also run cable companies. It is unfair that they get to control what people watch. Investing in landing pages is a marketing activity that media companies can take up. But then, BARC shouldn’t consider numbers of landing pages for defining ratings. This move will not just hurt broadcasters but the overall industry in the long run,” Pandey says.
But do moves like this also influence advertisers?
Pandey says that advertisers are smart enough to identify the source of viewership and there is no reason to believe that there will be a sudden spike in the demand for ad space according to the new TDSAT ruling.
According to Vivek Parakh, COO at IBC 24, viewership data of landing pages will not be of much importance until that channel actually has genuine viewership.
“High ratings do lead to high revenues, but planners and buyers of agencies are smart enough and know from where that GRP/coverage/TSV is coming if a channel is on a landing page,” he explains.
Some broadcasters have written a letter to BARC, requesting it to reconsider and reinstate the appropriate moderation policies. So, should BARC consider landing page numbers in ratings or not?
For some like Manav Dhanda, Group CEO, SAB Group, TDSAT ruling defies the very objective of digitization.
“The whole idea behind digitization was to give viewers the choice to choose what they want to watch but the TDSAT ruling on landing page decides viewership pattern and leads to forceful watching. This viewership should at least not be part of rating data put up by BARC,” he reasons.
On the other hand, according to Anand, BARC is bound to report “what India watches”.
“Any moderation of data will be wrong and we are sure that BARC will not resort to such manual overriding of data. The whole brouhaha seems to be motivated by a few broadcasters who want to save a penny. Instead of subverting a bona fide marketing medium, they should focus on competing with improved products, better distribution and stronger promotion strategies,” he argues.
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