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Airtel RPD data may just give the direction, say top advertisers

The pay DTH platform has started delivering RPD data for live TV coming through Xstream set-top-boxes on household-level. However, India’s top advertisers question if the data in current form is true representation of TV viewership, and seek entire viewership data that includes the connected TV and digital

Airtel’s commercial launch of Return Path Data (RPD) for television viewership coming through its Xstream set-top-boxes (STB) has evoked mixed reactions from advertisers. reported on Wednesday that the pay DTH platform has started delivering the viewership data with India TV as its first client

RPD data by Airtel

Airtel Xstream is a hybrid set-top-box largely used for accessing connected TV by high-end consumers. The set-top-box also provides live TV in HD and SD quality.

In its current form, Airtel’s RPD offerings are only for the live TV consumption on Xstream STBs. It does not include the consumption of connected TV accessed either through apps or YouTube.

India's top advertisers have questioned if the data in current form is true representation of TV viewership.

A large-size advertiser, under conditions of anonymity, told that any incremental data is always welcome. “It would have been better if this RPD was for the entire viewing experience, including connected TV and digital consumption. In current form, it is not the true representation of TV viewership. I’d see this data just to validate our direction of the ad spends.”

When asked about the reason, the marketer said, “Largely, people having connected TV rarely watch live TV. Even for news, either they access via the channels’ app or through YouTube. It would be interesting to see how many people from 10 lakh STBs actually access live TV. Among the people who watch live TV on Xstream, what is the ratio of their live TV consumption vis-a-vis connected TV or digital content consumption?”

On the other hand, Ankit Khirwal, VP, Marketing, upGrad, said, “Until a couple of months back, we only had BARC data to rely on and there was no other way to verify whether that data was right or wrong. It was like a Holy Grail for media planners. It’s good that one more data set is available. BARC might still be the gold standard, but now at least you would know what is the variance between party A vs party B. Whenever you find the gap huge, you can always question either party.” 

“It only helps the industry in terms of accuracy of data,” Khirwal added.

Household vs individual level data

Another major concern raised by all the marketers spoke with was the relevance of the household data for their media planning. Airtel’s RPD is delivering household data unlike BARC’s individual-level data.

Commenting on the household data and individual level data, Rajiv Dubey, Senior General Manager, Head of Media, Dabur, said, “When you start targeting the entire household and not individual, the entire logic of marketing and targeting, hyper targeting and the people you are reaching out to is lost. At least, a marketer needs to know whether the communication is reaching to a youth or female or kids or elderly people. TV is a mass medium and viewership data is used for reaching out to the right set of consumers. Household-level data can give you direction but it cannot tell you who to target and how to target.”  

Khirwal of upGrad offered a different view on household vs individual data. 

“If you talk about household data, NCCS is also household data. Most of the media planning especially in television happens on NCCS household-based data.”

“For digital businesses like ours, things are getting a little different because it is not just about viewership. It is about what time of the day, what channel, what TG am I showing my ad to and what is the resultant impact on my website. If Airtel started delivering connected TV and digital data, it would be a right fit for the marketers from an overall marketing mix point of view,” Khirwal added.

Will advertisers subscribe?

When asked if he would subscribe to the Airtel RPD data, Khirwal said, “Brands don’t but their agencies buy the data. And, agencies will buy because clients will ask for it. Now, I will not go blindly with BARC.”

On the contrary, the large-size marketer said, “Until the data is significantly rich and I can make real-time changes into my plan, I will not subscribe to it.”

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