Paritosh Joshi, CEO, Star CJ Network India and Ravi Rao, leader - team Unilever South Asia, Mindshare
Are you satisfied with the new Socio-Economic Classification system developed by MRUC and MRSI?
PJ: Considering that the last SEC exercise in India dates back a quarter of a century, it was clear to all users and practitioners that India's vastly altered socio-economic reality had long superceded that classification system and a radical overhaul, not mere tinkering on the edges, would be required to deliver a successor system. It has to be said that any system that endured, with commendable success, for 25 years was evidently reliable, robust and resilient. That only raised the bar for finding a successor system. It was never going to be easy. While the successor system has been in a near ready state for a few years now, it was crucial that it had broad acceptance before it could be rolled out and developing consensus took some time. The new system has a lot of socio-psychological insight and uncompromising statical and methodological robustness underpinning it and we welcome the New Socio-Economic Classification.
RR: Absolutely, Yes. The inclusion of 11 items in Consumer Durables makes it much more meaningful and adds further depth to the classification. Now the entire target audience can be classified on 12 different grades versus the 8 form the old system. Especially in Rural, we now have three times better dissection of the target universe.
What, according to you, are the major advantages and disadvantages offered by the new SEC system?
PJ: The Most important advantage is evidently the replacement of two, disparate classification system for Rural and Urban India by a single omnibus system that finally enables its users to understand all of India holistically. With rising literacy, connectivity and incomes, there is a visible narrowing of the urban/rural gulf and we should expect this phenomenon to continue playing out of decades to come. The new system will enable practitioners to visualise and plan for the total opportunity. The second big advantage is the ease of administration and the relatively low likelihood of misreporting. Just two ownership of a list of durables is all that is needed to classify a household. There are no obvious disadvantages relative to any alternative that we can spot at this time.
RR: The major advantage to a planner / client is that the new SEC classification is a sharper targeting tool so one can select media vehicles with much more precision, avoiding or minimising wastage. It helps to compare an urban target and the rural target on the same platform. Capturing niche and super niche audiences ( premium or super premium) will becom relatively easier. Some amount of disadvantage will be when one wants to benchmark CPT/CPMs versus Year Ago. But, this is always the case everytime a new and better improved research comes in places. Imagine if some of the State governments decided to suddenly give away 'free' computers or washing machines to every single household as part of wooing its people, then we would have a peculiar situation.
Will it lead to more confusion among marketers and media planners, with publishers presenting data using the SEC system that suits them from time-to-time?
PJ: There will certainly be some confusion for a period of time as data providers, media owners, planners and marketers will graduate from the predecessor to the successor not simultaneously but progressively. During this time, terms that appear in both systems, A1 or B2 could be wrongly interpreted. However, it is not as if there are any sustainable advantages to be gained by anyone by misuse of one vs. the other. The confusion will stem more from a period of adoption and adjustment playing out rather than a systematic attempt to misguide.
RR: But for the initial inertia in getting used to the new classification, this will become second nature soon with all clients, media planners and publishers. If any, few publishers may realise that their real readers are somewhere else and may have to either re-position or revise their content policy. Suddenly they may lose or gain new advertisers in categories that they never ever imagined. Interesting times!
When will your brand start adopting the new SEC system?
PJ: We have already begun incorporating the classification questions into our research work. However, a wholesale shift to reporting under the new system will only happen after we ensure internal and external alignment to do dual classification of data for some time to ensure that there are no anomalies.
RR: We will start adopting the new system as soon as the first research lands. this won't stop us from using this new system for our proprietary research very soon. Any planner will enjoy to dice and dissect the target universe.