TAM (Television Audience Measurement) data has not been available for the past 10 weeks across the country. The Union Information & Broadcasting Ministry's deferment of the data post the due date of release of 19 December has evoked strong reactions among stakeholders. But TV media air time is being planned and bought, and has been, through the period without TAM data.
How is it being done, especially in the context of new shows and properties?
Pratap Bose, chief operating officer, DDB Mudra Group, said, "You get into a bit of a grey area when it comes to making decisions on new shows but both the client and the agency makes a guesstimate, a judgement which is based on reasoning."
Sandeep Tarkas, president, consumer strategy, Future Group, has an 'Aunt Panel' of his own to consult to in this matter. "I have a bunch of aunts in the family and friends circle; I call them up to ask which shows they're hooked onto these days. These qualitative inputs help in the absence of quantitative ones from TAM."
Starcom MediaVest Group has a separate team within which closely monitors the chatter about TV shows on social media like Facebook and Twitter, explained Mallikarjun Das, chief executive officer, India.
Karthi Marshan, head - marketing, Kotak Mahindra Group, added, "In the West, Twitter has almost become a proxy for TAM. While we're far from reaching that stage, social media is serving as a guide to assess brand's amplitude and velocity to a great extent."
Das and Marshan concur on the usage of brand tracking tools to evaluate brand's health. "The brand track data provided by the client acts as a surrogate in the absence of TAM data," said Das.
Marshan explained how most of the decisions are taken on the basis of gut, and not just on TV. "We're still struggling to find an effective measurement tool for outdoor advertising and yet it's a no-brainer to advertise in outdoor because you know that a 40" x 20" billboard looks wow. You can tell the difference. If one was to only depend on TAM data, a marketer would have lost his job. You have to think beyond TAM," he noted.
Tarkas noted that the absence of TAM data has inadvertently made the industry realise that it is barely dependent on the data to a grave extent. He added, "Instead, we have been forced to look for informal panels and devise means to understand the consumer pulse. You hardly stop advertising because of the absence of data anyway."
Bose pointed out that for a large part of the last 10 weeks, the festive season was at play. TAM or no TAM, he underlined that brands (especially white goods) want to spend money during the season.
Das informed that while the November plans were based on September data, for December, the agency had to look at the surrogate factors.
According to Marshan, the industry is still at a nascent stage as far as TV audience measurement data is concerned. "Everybody doesn't use TAM as a gospel. At the end, the decision is always a result of a combination of a lot of factors but TAM is definitely a currency to bank on."
There is more acknowledgement that TAM is a necessity, for sure. Das said, "There's no running from data. Everything else just aids the decision making, nothing can replace TAM."
Bose too is waiting for the data to be revealed soon. "Right now we are playing the 'wait and watch' game, telling the client that we expect the TVRs to be at a certain level based on our common sense. Only the data would confirm where we were right and where we went wrong," he surmised.