The AAAI and ISA have reacted strongly to a host of broadcasters - BAG, MSM, NDTV, Network18, Star India, Times Television, ZEE - asking TAM to report their data on monthly basis, instead of weekly. TAM had ceded to their request, as reported by Campaign India.
FMCG companies including Britannia, Dabur, Godrej, HUL, Marico and P&G, among others, have decided to cancel the release orders to broadcasters, if the channels do not revert to reporting viewership data on a weekly basis, informed senior industry professionals following the developments.
The decision of moving to monthly ratings, AAAI contends, was not taken in consultation with advertising bodies - Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) or the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI).
Over the years, the broadcasters have shown their discontent with the only rating currency present for TV medium currently - TAM. This has also resulted in a unified call (by advertisers, broadcasters and media agencies) for nationwide audience research joint body - Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC).
On the current impasse on the Television Audience Measurement, Arvind Sharma, president, AAAI, said, "For 14 years, TAM has been the TV Audience measurement system in the country. It has been the currency on the basis of which advertising planning, buying and selling have been conducted. We all agree that this measurement system needs to evolve. That is the common goal towards which broadcasters, advertisers and advertising agencies came together to create Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). BARC will take 10 months or so to start generating its audience measurement data. In the meantime, however, if individual broadcasters try to force unilateral changes in the current system, as some have tried, it will result in a disorderly and hybrid measurement system. It will become impossible for advertising agencies and advertisers to plan and therefore, buy TV spots. In this scenario, it is natural for advertisers to begin to question the value of advertising in this medium at all. Cancellation of TV releases by many advertisers on eight network groups that have insisted on unilateral changes is a natural outcome of that. More clients are following."
The broadcasters who have chosen to move to monthly data command more than 100 channels between them. The cancellation of release spots might result in inventory loss of 60 to 70 per cent across channels, estimated Anita Nayyar, CEO India & South Asia, Havas Media.
Ajay Kakar, CMO – financial services, Aditya Birla Group, said, "When all the world is moving to real-time 'live' data, moving to a monthly reporting defeats the purpose of real time optimisation and tactical plans. No imminent action can be taken once we get data on a monthly basis. To that extent, this move is a reason for concern. I do believe that there is need for all concerned stakeholders to sit across and discuss this openly, with all their cards on the table. That is the only way to get a lasting and win-win solution."
While TV is still critical and a core component of the media mix for several campaigns and communication initiatives, there would be marginal increase in those channels who have not taken the monthly reporting route, say some advertisers.
"But I see more of non-TV options gaining real momentum, thanks to this situation especially in digital, cinema with audio-visual deliveries," pointed Kakar. Print will also benefit on account of this shuffle of media dollars, he added.
Amin Lakhani, principal partner, The Exchange, Fulcrum, at MindShare, noted, "It is a sad situation. Weekly data helps us and the clients to take corrective measure in time or measure the effectiveness of a campaign. Now, waiting 30 days for measuring effectiveness or corrective measure will only prove regressive."
Especially after digitisation, monthly ratings would prove to be a regressive step as increasingly advertisers' feel the need for 'real-time bidding', contend planners.
"You know you like it and 'feel' like wanting it, but you never know whether you got it at the right price. In the new system, what will happen is whatever accountability was there in the past, has practically vanished. A post evaluation is very much like a post mortem with no chance of resurrecting the situation. Will this result in ad rate fluctuations? I do believe that it will, as the pricing is anybody's guess and benchmarks will not be effective. Can this add to the confusion among media planners? Yes it will, because of two separate currencies in the same research reporting. Additional time coupled with additional effort will lead to lesser effectiveness for advertisers," explained Kakar.
An industry veteran from a broadcasting company said, "This is a sensitive topic. We are sure that a logical and correct solution will be reached within a day or two."
Concurring, Nayar said, "Each day discussions between the broadcasters and advertisers are happening, and we are sure that an amicable solution will be reached. Even with net billing, the solution was reached in 15 days."
The industry, including the advertisers and planners, are currently in the wait-and-watch situation.
"AAAI believes that any change in the TV measurement system needs to be thought through and to have support from all the three industry constituents - broadcasters, advertisers and advertising agencies. We continue to be firmly of the belief that dialogue among all constituents is essential for evolving the system. We remain open to discussions, as always. However, this does require similar openness across all constituents. We will continue to work towards a dialogue," said Sharma.
At the time of filing the story, no other broadcaster had announced switching to monthly ratings.
Discovery Networks, which was reported to have requested a switch to monthly ratings, has now decided to stick to weekly ratings. This was confirmed by sources close to the development.
(Updated on 16 July, at 17:30 hrs)