LK Gupta, Vice President – Marketing, LG Electronics India, feels it would be a shame if the NDTV-TAM case whimpers to a tame ending without any substantial gains coming to the wider body of advertisers and marketers in the country
August 6, 2012
The recent lawsuit brought by NDTV against Nielsen, Kantar and TAM opens up yet again the questions on quality and veracity of media data in India. For me this familiar issue is not about one TV channel and a research company, but about all syndicated research that marketers use to make multi-billion dollar decisions. That is the big concern that industry should be addressing, not whether NDTV should be granted those hundreds of millions in compensation or who indeed is the #1 news channel.
TAM, just like Nielsen’s FMCG retail audit research and GfK’s consumer durables retail track (all based on continuous data collection from panels) is a monopoly in its field. Typically, besides getting a top level look at methodology, sample sizes and cities covered, marketers and agencies never get to see what goes on behind the lead curtain in the black box of these studies. And for good reason too, for you don’t want to contaminate the data with buyers getting a look into the panel.
The flip side to this is that the industry is left at the mercy of varying degrees of incompetence in these research agencies, or even malpractices at field level or higher. I’m not suggesting that these agencies really are corrupt as NDTV claims, but to leave the running of such research solely in the hands of one agency is at best foolish, and at worst business hara kiri. Clients spend hundreds of crores of rupees by using TAM to optimise their media plans, and multiple crores per category report to analyse market movements and plan their strategies with respect to product, pricing and distribution. Careers and financial performances can be made or unmade based on decisions coming out of these data. In this regard, debating whether NDTV is the #1 TV channel or how much revenue it lost due to malfeasance is to trivialize the much larger issue.
Whatever comes out of the NDTV-TAM saga, some concerted steps are sorely needed so that marketers and agencies sleep better.
On a related note, I must say I am deeply disappointed with prominent business publications like ET for not getting deeper into the reporting of this NDTV fracas. This is a matter of billions of dollars every year across all companies, and probably more important than sensational cases like one company’s 800 crore rupees fraud which regularly made front page headlines recently!
It would be a shame if the NDTV-TAM case whimpers to a tame ending without any substantial gains coming to the wider body of advertisers and marketers in the country.
Nicely articulated, but I don't think joint ownership can be a solution. As we know, multiple stake holders - is no guarantee against corruption / mis-representation - doesn't safeguard against vested interests of select stakeholders, and thus tends to get lopsided in any case. - and causes enormous delays So, more frequent 3rd party auditing is a possible solution, and should include both validation of output as well as process. Secondly, w.r.t transparency, subscribers ought to be able to get answers to their queries on any aspect related to research design, methodology (questionnaire, etc.) or sampling, that does not make the study susceptible to subscriber manipulation. Let's also remember that no monopoly has ever benefited the consumer. The belief that one "currency" is required has just been exploded with this NDTV case. So, all those, who championed the merger of INTAM and TAM some years ago, or did not support aMAP, or have forgotten that the variations between the NRS and IRS, actually improved the quality of both studies, and that even they co-existed for more than 10 years, please wake up. Let's accept that somewhere we are to blame ourselves for any such mess. And lastly w.r.t. knowing how to use the research, (what to regard and what to dis-regard), I'm afraid, there's far too little being done in terms of educating users on the technicalities or the application of research. (How often do media sellers explain the utility of research to advertisers?). Until this education pervades the industry sufficiently, the plague that we are seeing traces of now, could well turn to into an epidemic.