ISA’s advisory extends support to industry members in transition period of TRAI NTO

Advertisers and media agencies assess their media plans as ISA advises stakeholders to not use BARC data during the transition period of TRAI’s NTO

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The continued uncertainty over the implementation of the TRAI New Tariff Order (NTO), the number of consumers migrated and the channel selections made by them, had the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) Executive Council issue an advisory saying that the viewership data from the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India during the transition period should not be used for media planning, evaluation and buying perspectives.

While there were speculations that stakeholders didn’t want BARC to release ratings for a temporary period - resulting in the blackout of data - till the situation stabilised on ground, officially BARC, sources say, was mandated to continue to report the data of what India watches. In this scenario, ISA’s advisory is clear, that as it will take a minimum of six weeks to assess the stability of the viewership numbers post the implementation of the NTO, it’s best to not use the media currency data during this period.

Commenting on the advisory, the head of a media agency, on the condition of anonymity said, “I agree with the advisory. There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment so even if you were to use the data, it would not be anything more than a point in time information. It's similar to the time when TAM was substituted by BARC, everyone is using their hypothesis to figure out which channels will get traction and plan accordingly. Also keeping your ears close to the ground by speaking to viewers to understand how the wind is blowing.”

As the new order is expected to impact the distribution and broadcast landscape across the country, a source in a leading media agency said that most media agencies have advised clients to refrain from advertising during the initial weeks and to check the empirical data to decide channel choice.

In the advisory, Sunil Kataria, Chairman, ISA, says that the “NTO is a sudden development and as a result the ability to predict the impact of this event is extremely difficult. Considering the fact that the TRAI NTO is across India, its impact will be significantly different in each region given the varied distribution and broadcast landscape of each region.” He further added “that the variance in pre and post evaluations will be higher than the usual and will be highly unpredictable. Hence pre and post evaluation should be avoided for this period.” 

On his part, Mayank Shah, Category Head, Parle Products says he doesn’t expect to see substantial volatility in the actual viewership and would look at older data while drawing up media plans. He says, “You don’t really see huge swings in ratings, it happens over a period of time. Also, BARC data is a sample data and if a few of the households being monitored have switched choices and changed their viewing habits, then you may see swings in ratings. This may happen in niche genres where consumption is not driven by appointment viewing. For channels where typically there is appointment viewing, such as GECs which provide reach and frequency, there shouldn’t be any volatility. I believe, that the viewership will only consolidate because viewers will now watch what they only want to watch.” What will also be interesting to see is whether the GEC viewer, for example in the Hindi space, will choose packages from all the four broadcasters, or decide to go a la carte or decide to pick and choose just one or two channels/packages based on their viewing patterns.  

What also has to be kept in mind is that with the situation still in a flux, no clarity on the choices made by the consumer and how different markets will behave, assessing the performance and making media plans of not just the ongoing campaigns but also campaigns that are anticipated to be released in March-April will be a challenge.

Commenting on the advisory, a marketer in the travel and accessory space who is scheduled to launch a campaign in March says, “The scenario is very transient and will take some time to stablise. It is a good advisory because this transient data will not help media planning and buying anyway. Either you use your own guestimates on how the markets you need to advertise are going to behave and then take the call basis on what the channel in your media plan’s share in the genre will be.” He continues, “Most of my media mix, is not GEC but niche audience led. What I would probably do is go back to my previous campaigns, see which genres delivered to me and then to use my own surrogates, basis the TRAI guidelines, to decide what the consumer will pick and then choose the top two channels in each genre that my TG watches.”

 

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