Unified measurement currency for TV, digital is two years away: Ashish Bhasin

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MUMBAI: While there is a strong pitch for having a unified measurement currency for TV and digital, the video entertainment industry is at least two years away from achieving that goal. This was the sum and substance of the panel discussion at the Future of Video India 2019 summit organised by Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA).

The panellists noted that advertisers today have to rely on different currencies for evaluating the return on investment for the same property. A case in point being the on-going Indian Premier League (IPL), which has sold ad inventory on both TV and digital.

It was also noted that India is a market where all mediums are growing. So the issue of money flowing back to TV from digital does not arise. At the same time, digital has issues like fake news, reliability and also the lack of currency measurement. In terms of the overall AdEx, India is still under-indexed even when compared to Africa.

These points were made at a session at a panel discussion titled ‘Is Digital Ad Spend Shifting Back to TV’?

Dentsu Aegis Network CEO Greater South, chairman, CEO India Ashish Bhasin answering a question posed by Travelxp founder Prashant Chothani who was in the audience noted that he does not think that the issue of measurement between TV and digital would get sorted before two years.

“A highly intelligent industry of very forward looking people can be ridiculous in arguing stupid, small details and ignore the big picture. You are looking at it from the digital video point of view but the issue is across. From my perspective, it really does not matter whether it is BARC measuring or it if it is MRUC. The most important part is that all the key stakeholders and constituents which is the media owners, broadcasters, publishers, agencies, clients all have to come together and agree that this is how things should work,” he stated.

He also stated that the industry agreed that BARC should measure television. It can be improved upon but there has be a reasonably agreed upon metric upon which trading is happening. A similar thing, he said, needs to happen for digital but there you may need two solutions and not one. Maybe a video solution is needed which is more aligned to television. Another solution may be needed in another area.

“Someone tells me that two seconds of watching an ad is a view and so you pay for it. Someone else says no it has to be 10 or 30 seconds. At the moment, we have no consensus. There needs to be an agreed upon measurement criteria. You say that these are the rules by which this game is going to be played. The rules can be evolved as you go. The rules are not the same. At the moment we are struggling because the rules are not the same. You play cricket while I play hockey. Someone else plays football. It is actually the most measurable medium,” Bhasin stated.

He further noted, “The comedy of the whole thing to me is that we are having this huge measurement issue on a medium where any and every aspect can be measured. The stakeholders of the industry need to arrive at a consensus which may not be a perfect solution to begin with but at least a consensus and then build upon it and agree with it. We have not been able to do so. I have a two eyar perspective on this. I cannot see it happening in the next six months.”

In terms of the title of the session which was ‘Is Digital Ad Spend Shifting Back to TV’? The answer is a resounding no because the issue does not arise. Bhasin went a step further and said that whoever had thought of the topic for discussion had no clue about the reality of the Indian ad market.

“The whole universe is growing. We will cross $10 billion. The rates of growth of media are different. Clearly digital is growing much faster than television albeit from a smaller base and that still continues despite all the problems. That is not to say that television is not growing. Television is having double digit growth on advertising alone forget about subscription. We are at this happy situation where all media are growing and this will continue for the next five years. The CAGR for digital will be 31-32 per cent. Television is around 12-13 per cent and is the largest medium due to its sheer impact. Even print is increasing because literacy levels are rising,” he added.

Digital, Bhasin said, is going through the roof for the simple reason that there are 450 million people on the Internet. He also said that Dentsu Aegis Network’s research shows that in the coming three years another 300 million people will enter internet ecosystem. These people will come from the rural and regional markets.

He noted that things like Jio prices digital will grow. But at the same time he cautioned that the challenge is in two areas, reliability, credibility and fake news. Where a clients’ ad appears is starting to scare them a little bit. The other threat is the lack of measurement. These are two possible constraints.

He also stated that the bellwethers of advertising like FMCG, auto, finance, and e-commerce are interested in large mass numbers. When the reach of television and digital converge then the session topic will become relevant.

IPG Mediabrands COO Interactive Avenues Shantanu Sirohi said that digital is over measured but it is just that the currency has not been understood. Data is captured and analysed. He said that there are third party solutions. He said that issues like bots, fraudulent clicks happen when the agencies or clients are not doing what they are supposed to do which is to plan for the media.

For instance buying media to sell more cars is fine but if the aim is to have more test drives that is when most frauds happen. On the whole, he feels that the problem is not as endemic as it is made out to be. For him, the problem is that as a percentage of the GDP the ad spends is very low compared to the global market. Here it is $4 while in China it is $88 per user. Even Sub-Saharan Africa is more than India.

Zee Media MD Ashok Venkatramani said that there is increasing realisation that you cannot build a brand only using digital. Digital serves a purpose of performance marketing. It has a role to play as it creates impact. You know exactly what the input and output is. But he added that what you cannot do in digital marketing is to build a brand in a classical sense.

Both TV and digital have a role to play in marketing. The younger generation uses digital. He agreed with Bhasin that in the foreseeable future both TV and digital have a strong role to play. He said that his company sells to clients as a package. They don’t necessarily eat into each other’s share of the cake. He also said that the fight is not between TV and digital but between content creators and distribution platforms. So broadcasters diversified. So a news channel is not just available on the TV It is also present on the mobile. Entertainment content can be seen on OTT platforms as well.


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