TV with its scale still continues to be the most preferred medium in short-term, but, with the consumer behaviour changing, it’s time to reimagine the formats of storytelling and adapt to new models of earning revenue and building digital strength, said Shekhar Banerjee, Chief Client Officer and Office Head – West, Wavemaker India in an interview with BestMediaInfo.com.
Even if traditional media houses strengthen their digital arms, would digital be able to compensate the Indian content platforms for their dip in traditional media revenues?
He answered, “The problem is that they are trying to change and shift media channels while keeping their content or editorial teams. How you tell the story also changes and most of them are not addressing those nuances. The revenue earned by Meta and Google in India are public numbers. Therefore, to believe that there is less money on digital is not true.”
When it comes to cricket and especially IPL, irrespective of the increasing cost, “Cricket has been one of the biggest growth drivers for brands who have used the platform effectively. We saw a bit of a setback in cricket early last year and a lot of factors could have influenced it for example – The overdose of IPL in two parts but it has bounced back,” added Banerjee.
Talking about the shift in brands’ ad spends, Banerjee commented, “Advertisers are also not focused towards building only reach or top funnel plans, a significant portion of the marketing budget is also moving towards the mid and bottom funnel, where TV has a very minimal role to play.”
During the course of the interview, he also spoke about the huge responsibility of news channels with regard to content moderation. He said, “If advertisers’ trust in news channels goes away, then the genre would become brand-unsafe space to advertise.”
He also said that the rating dark period for news channels was a disservice to the industry.
Like the world, India is also witnessing a decline in Pay linear TV. The cable and DTH operators are losing a million subscribers every month as per TRAI data. How much does it worry you?
People are consuming TV content, this may not be going anymore through DTH or cable but through other distribution channels, for example, Jio Fiber or OTT platforms. The distribution channel is changing hence making it more difficult to measure.
Altogether, it doesn't make us worry. In the end, the objective of any top funnel media plan that goes out for a brand today is to reach the consumers at the lowest cost. For example, Wavemaker has a panel-based planning tool, 'Architect' which helps us deliver the best reach at the lowest cost and it is media-agnostic.
There are two bigger disruptions that the TV industry should be more worried about, first is the increase in short-form video consumption on mobile which is impacting a large chunk of TV time and second is advertisers’ ability to target and influence a consumer when they are actively taking a buying decision, often dubbed as performance or bottom-funnel spends. Finally, the brand marketing budget is one so a lot is getting traded off from top funnel TV advertising to such interventions.
This change in landscape definitely worries TV channels. What should they do to maintain the revenues?
Given that most brands and categories in India are still striving for increasing market penetration, TV with its scale still continues to be the most preferred medium and in short-term, the demand for ad inventory on TV is very high. However, they should definitely worry about the landscape and consumer behaviour change. They have been engaging consumers for the longest time now it’s the time to reimagine the formats of storytelling. They also need to adapt to new models of earning revenue and building digital strength.
Digital is growing but is it compensating Indian content platforms for their dip in traditional media revenues? The answer is not 100%. In that case, where is the industry headed in the future? Doesn’t the future look like ‘always struggling’?
Content owners need to reinvent their model to start with. We have consulted some of the media houses in the country about how they can transform their business model. The problem is that they are trying to change and shift media channels while keeping their content or editorial teams. That's not going to work. The content delivery will also change with the shift of medium. How you tell the story also changes and most of them are not addressing those nuances. For example, news platforms like Inshorts - are telling the news in a very different way and doing well.
The revenue earned by Meta and Google in India are public numbers. Therefore, to believe that there is less money on digital is not true.
But then Facebook and Google also need to share a fair share in ad revenue with digital publishers. Most of them complain of Google and Facebook not sharing a fair share in ad revenue and not maintaining transparency about the same. In fact, DNPA and INS have complained to CCI about the same.
There are policies and laws that are under development across many markets. There have been certain interventions that have already happened in a lot of places. These will come into effect in India also. But nothing is stopping TV platforms from strengthening and scaling their digital arms.
Also, TV channels don’t have a first-mover advantage on digital if we compare them to Facebook and Google.
If we start thinking this way then TikTok wouldn’t have been a runaway success worldwide and Hyperlocal delivery wouldn’t have given the big marketplaces a run for their money. What I mean to say is that the TV industry is not seeing this challenge from the lens of disrupting the current status quo. All interventions are designed to deliver incremental returns.
In fact, the biggest impact property in India, IPL is also losing out GRPs along with other impact or regular properties on TV. What do you have to say in this regard?
We saw a bit of a setback in cricket early last year and a lot of factors could have influenced it for example – The overdose of IPL in two parts but it has bounced back. If you see the performance of cricket starting September last year and onwards, the cricket performance is back. IPL and Indian cricket in general still continues to be the biggest aggregator of audiences in India and nothing comes close to the scale of cricket in India.
Do you think the increase in cricket reach has increased due to the universe update?
I won’t say that. Universe increase is a reality for all TV channels and it gives equal opportunity to see to all genres and channels. Also, take into consideration the time spent on the property. Overall, the traction that we used to see from cricket has bounced back strongly.
So, are you saying that one won't see the impact on the CPRP rates going forward?
Rates and CPRP is also a factor of the acquisition cost, demand and supply. It's a much more complex topic when you talk about cricket. Irrespective of the increasing cost, when we see any attribution study on mind measure or sales, cricket has been one of the biggest growth drivers for brands who have used the platform effectively.
Has the priority order of various genres of TV changed for advertisers in the last five years? It used to be GECs, Movies, live Sports and news earlier?
The pegging order within TV is fairly similar. What has changed is how advertisers are now looking at their media plans. Beyond TV genres there are online video platforms that have come into the stack. Today, when clients see a plan, they see how much online video genre platforms are adding on top of the TV. For example, OTT platforms and YouTube have started featuring as part of a single plan only. It's no longer centred around the traditional genres that we see on TV. Advertisers are also not focused towards building only reach or top funnel plans, a significant portion of the marketing budget is also moving towards the mid and bottom funnel, where TV has a very minimal role to play.
The news genre has witnessed quite an upheaval in the last three years for reasons known to everyone such as external and internal manipulations including landing pages. How has it impacted advertisers’ consideration of the genre?
Mixed bag for the news genre. On one hand, there are advertisers in the market who absolutely swear by the news and have continued to invest in it. On the other hand, there are advertisers, who on grounds of brand safety, have stayed away from the genre.
There is a huge responsibility on news channels with regard to content moderation. Advertisers advertise on news because of the trust it commands. If that goes away, then advertisers will start considering it as a brand-unsafe space to advertise.
What has changed from a planning point of view if we compare the rating dark period and after ratings were resumed? Smaller players blamed the absence of ratings for being ousted from the plan. Has anything changed after the rating is back?
Not much actually. Ratings or no ratings, advertisers need to keep going after new consumers. There were strategies put in place to manage rating dark periods. Once the data was available it only helped better allotment of budgets to the news channels.
On the other hand, there is much superior measurement capabilities in digital today. So, such disruption will only damage the TV industry in the future. Digital provides event-level data versus panel-based data on TV. In the data dark period, advertisers tested more on digital and when they saw results, they quickly migrated budgets to digital. It’s a disservice to the industry by going dark.
Regardless of whether a show is on TV or OTT, a large part of the youth population is not consuming shows at all. How complicated has it made your job given that digital outreach to each consumer is tricky?
Digital outreach to consumers is very easy, transparent and not tricky at all. The return data path is very clear and with the right data stack and attribution analytics, a brand exactly knows from the total number of people they are reaching and how many consumers are they recruiting. This has become a hygiene process for most of Wavemaker's clients.
Many marketers say it's very challenging…
It's because advertisers have not done the necessary investment required to manage their consumer data and addressable audiences. For you to leverage digital fully you need to invest and create that ecosystem, our data sciences and commerce teams at Wavemaker are spending disproportionate time in consulting and building this tech ecosystem for our clients.