The Rs 23,000-crore Indian television advertising industry is completely fuelled by viewership numbers generated by the Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC). No matter how much people in the industry brag about the importance of perception and image, data is the sole driver of the thousands of crores spent by advertisers on the television medium.
In such a scenario, it is of prime importance that all the three pillars of this transaction from the advertiser to the broadcaster – advertiser, media agencies and the broadcasters – understand the viewership numbers like the back of their hand.
Are all the stakeholders actually putting in the effort? The most important part of this three-wheeler vehicle is the advertiser because it is his money that either gives him a larger impact or goes for a toss. So, it is of utmost urgency and crucial that the advertisers and brand-custodians know and understand the viewership data. But do they actually understand it?
BestMediaInfo.com spoke to experts in the television business, planners, buyers, research heads and statisticians to understand seven things advertisers have failed to understand about television viewership data:
Advertisers still do not understand that it is simply unfair to compare the two measurement systems since there are too many differences – starting from universe, people-meters/ bar-o-meters, formulae, data collection process and also the coverage. TAM didn’t cover rural and not complete urban universe too, with many states out of their scheme of things such as North Eastern states, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir and others.
Since the beginning, BARC has been publishing the absolute numbers in terms of ‘impressions’ or GVTs as it was earlier called. Even though BARC says it is not responsible for the units and currencies used for advertising and is only responsible for giving out the data, the industry has from time to time questioned against the need of disseminating data in GRP. As we have mentioned in one of our earlier reports too, a major multinational FMCG company buys spots on the basis of CPRP but they report it in terms of CPT to their global centre. So this testifies that BARC is equipping the industry with all possible data. However, it is for the advertisers and agencies to take the tough decision and make that shift.
GRP is the percentage of total viewers (watching TV) who are watching a particular programme. GRPs are used from the DD age when there were no other channels. So, at any given point in time, when a programme was being watched, it was on DD. Now, the TV measurement is about which programme contributes to how much percentage in the channel’s viewership. So, for the advertisers to understand their viewership and assessment of an ad, it is only fair that they use absolute numbers.
The media plans are devised on the basis of pre and post analysis. This means that when an advertiser is sitting in August, planning for September, the plan will be based on July viewership and the results will be extrapolated to the month of September. However, that is not true with the viewership trend, which has always been cyclic in nature. A lot of times during the TAM and BARC eras, it was established that the overall viewership dips steeply between May and September-mid October. So, the July numbers can never be a fit match for September and a plan made based on the month of March will never be fit for July. Advertisers and agencies must understand and implement seasonality of viewership data.
In fact, a lot of people mentioned how annual deals are a farce. Since viewership is changing every day, every week, why do advertisers lock their monies about 12 months beforehand?
A lot of advertisers are not even aware of the kind and expanse of data released by BARC India. Two of these crucial data sets are the ones about HD channels and about the Alpha Club. Many advertisers are not aware that BARC India measures HD channels data right from day one of launch. Today, 69 HD channels are being measured. They are not even aware that a couple of broadcasters also sell HD separately. As for the Alpha Club – it is a set of premium audience that includes viewers from NCCS A1, A2 and A3 in the form of a four-week roll-over average viewership numbers.
Surprisingly, even if ISA, AAAI and IBF are all stakeholders of BARC India, close to 90 per cent of the television advertisers don’t subscribe to BARC data or the BMW software. This makes them all the more dependent of their media agencies. Many planners and buyers tell us that the BARC software is way easier (technology wise) and user friendly than the TAM software.
There is nothing called stability of viewership data. Except for the fiction programming, which attracts a certain amount of loyalty and appointment viewing, no other genre of TV programming or TV channels can expect the same viewer behaviour day after day. Also, there are a lot of consistent changes happening on the ground – digitisation, expansion of universe annually for a couple of years, freedish and the Arasu instance in Tamil Nadu. All of this is shaking up the ground continuously. The upcoming implementation of the TRAI’s tariff order will attempt to give more ripple effects. Digitisation has suddenly exposed people to 300-400 channels, who are too keen on exploring, which gives a sudden boost to sampling of a lot of channels.
Data is not the holy grail. This is the most important aspect of viewership that needs advertisers’ immediate attention. The advertisers have to and must understand that the extreme fluctuations in the genres that have smaller universe cannot be removed overnight, or over months. It is going to take a longer time for India to attain stability of an above average level. Thus, social media conversations, quality of programme, its popularity and the positioning has a larger story to tell.