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Media Mavens: Conversations have become easier with BARC ratings' return, says Niti Kumar, Starcom

Niti Kumar, COO, Starcom India, on the return of ratings and how it has made decision-making simpler for media buyers and advertisers.

By  Tasmayee Laha RoyAug 30, 2022 4:00 PM
Media Mavens: Conversations have become easier with BARC ratings' return, says Niti Kumar, Starcom
Overall, I think everyone is much happier. Conversations have become easier because one knows now where the genre stands. It has become much easier for a planner or an advertiser to make choices and select what works for them, says Kumar.

Note to readers: Media Mavens is a new Storyboard18 series featuring media investment firms and power players - the X-Women and X-Men who make the big calls on how and where to spend advertisers' money. This is a peek into their minds - how they work in a dynamic landscape, the next big trends they’re watching for, insights into what advertisers need today, the disruptions driving change and the factors driving their decisions. Watch this space for all that and more.

It’s been close to six months since news ratings have been bought back by BARC India that went on a blackout period from October 2020. The return of ratings that now follow a different measurement methodology have brought some permanent changes in rankings.

Marketers and media buyers now do not depend on past performances and social media data to crack deals with broadcasters. The ratings make all the difference, says Niti Kumar, Chief Operating Officer at Starcom India, a leading media investment firm. Kumar also said that ratings have made it much easier for a planner and an advertiser to make choices and select what works for them

Read on.

It’s been close to six months that BARC ratings are back for the news genre. What has changed for the industry and how is it helping in planning spends?

It is definitely good to have ratings back. Especially when most clients have a lot of KPIs attached to factors like CPRP, it’s definitely good to have ratings back and all of our clients echo this statement.

In terms of what has changed the way BARC is now reporting these ratings, which is a four-week rolling average, has led to a change in rankings. After the methodology change, it took a while for the channel positions to stabilize. For example, if you look at some of the channels that used to feature in the top five intermittently, they have now been ranking much lower.

So there have been those changes. But news also historically has been a genre that has seen a lot of fluctuation in terms of viewership. That being said, there are still two to three channels which held the top position before the blackout and they continue to do so.

Overall, I think everyone is much happier. Conversations have become easier because one knows now where the genre stands. It has become much easier for a planner or an advertiser to make choices and select what works for them.

BARC claims to have gotten rid of all the anomalies that existed in the system? Do media buyers buy that? How important are these ratings for you?

BARC ratings are the singular source of TV measurement right now. There is no other way to get the kind of data that BARC gives you and it’s not just for news. When media planners are evaluating options they need to evaluate a holistic level of growth, across channels, across audiences, markets and so on.

Those kinds of cuts don't come from any other source.

It's a choice between having no ratings and no data source to help drive your investment versus what BARC gives you. I would always pick sides with where you at least have the data available.

What we need to see is a lot more innovation in content. Don't ask me what because that is a bit of a million-dollar question.
India is a complex market to measure. There are many challenges at the ground level, which exists. Therefore, whatever data is available, I think if a planner or an advertiser uses it knowing that the data has limitations and is not a hundred percent absolute, it's fine.

At the moment, I think we are happy with the BARC ratings and using them wherever needed.

What are the other factors that you consider while deciding where the clients spend their ad money?

While ratings are critical I think when one chooses a plan there are many other factors that come. One looks at affinity. So it's not just the pure TVR or GRP number but you also look at the skews in your audience.

We also look at things like social media reach and chatter about a particular channel. Which channel is kind of being talked about more and so on. We look at factors like what's the value that the channel is giving. There could be two channels which in terms of performance, at par, or they're a little different but the value that the channel gives whether it's a sponsorship, an innovation or anything else helps in picking one over the other.

Lastly, it’s also possible to assess in terms which channels actually, or a mix of channels get a better response. Learning from past campaigns is one example.

Also for news it is important that it reaches the trade audience, your dealers, your CXOs or the investor community which is an important audience. So, you know, one also picks channels based on these factors.

What is the role of reach? How do you use it?

If you look at the news genre it has never been a big reach builder. But then again why advertisers get on to the genre is because of the audience. Decision makers are watching the news. So while reach definitely helps, the audience profile is the most important factor contributing to the growth of the genre. On digital platforms, however, news is being used to build reach because it helps you reach out to audiences who may not otherwise be on your platform.

Are ad rates fixed purely on the basis of reach?

It's actually a combination led by demand and supply. So there are certain channels who very clearly based on their position or viewership fix a benchmark range they want to operate in. There are others who are more flexible when it comes to different categories. So there's a category which doesn't advertise much on TV. You may get a sweeter deal from an entry perspective into the category.

So depending on what the inventory supplies are versus demand from advertisers at that point prices are decided. However, there's no one formula to it. Every broadcaster has their own threshold and they work around it.

There are a lot of broadcasters that also have digital offerings? Does it give them an upper hand in terms of better reach and offering better deals to advertisers from the perspective of bundling?

From an advertiser or a media buyer perspective it is very helpful if a broadcaster has digital offerings as a part of their network simply because of the additional reach. So much of our news consumption has moved to digital today. Additionally, with connected TV coming up where digital consumption of news is happening, it helps a lot.

However, when it comes to bundling, there are some networks which do it but there are some that don't because their digital businesses run as different or completely separate PnLs or separate revenue generators. So in that case, it becomes a hard task for a buyer to bundle it. But wherever possible, we are very happy to get such proposals where we look at a TV plus digital offering.

Regionalization will only increase. Maybe news will get into a sub-genre game at a regional level. That's what I anticipate because there is that appetite in the market.
Regional is something every broadcaster is focusing on? How does it help their case?

When you look at the viewership landscape, over the last three or four years, what is very clearly happening is regionalization of viewership. We are seeing it on the internet too.

There are a lot of vernacular functions that are going up on platforms. A lot of content is consumed and created in vernacular languages. The same thing is happening on TV where consumers in tier II and tier III cities and even in select tier I cities prefer to consume news in their own local language.

So by having offerings across different languages, it just helps you reach the Bharat market. If I want national coverage, I do have to take regional inputs across the South Market. Broadcasters that have these offerings are naturally doing better than the others.

I see regionalization only going up over the next few years. Maybe news will get into a sub-genre game at a regional level. That's what I anticipate because there is that appetite in the market.

What are marketers asking for when they invest in media today?

I think the top priority for everyone is ROI driven. There has to be some way of defining return on that investment and it goes beyond just your BARC reported number. Ideally, they want to see impact on sales or impact on brand awareness or some equity parameter. If there is some direct linkage that one can draw to that then there’s nothing better.

For example, if you run a QR code led promotion on one channel and don’t run it on the other, you get a very good sense of what is effective. So a lot of the conversations are now around the effectiveness of individual channels.

The other conversation is around value and it’s not just about costs. It’s not about getting X per ten seconds or getting Y per ten seconds, but more about what value am I getting against what I'm paying. It could be through some integration, something to do with digital offerings, some innovation or simply some ground level support.

What would you say broadcasters can do to crack better deals?

The broadcasters are doing a fantastic job. It is a tough business to run infrastructure wise. What we need to see is a lot more innovation in content. Don't ask me what because that is a bit of a million-dollar question, but content should be able to shake the monotony.

I know there are certain kinds of reporting that probably drive ratings but I'm sure there is some innovation that's possible. There is also scope for a lot cleaner analytical news reporting that could probably make a difference to the clutter that exists.

Watch this space for more Media Maven dialogues. And catch Storyboard18 across Moneycontrol, CNBC-TV18 and Forbes India.

First Published on Aug 30, 2022 10:16 AM