Digital Measurement Capabilities Ready, But Intent Missing: Shashi Sinha

Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands India and Chairman, Technical Committee, BARC India was in his true element at The Mobile Media Summit 2018. In his short but emphatic address on ‘Measurement: Critical for Business Growth’, he stressed upon the need for media measurement, and spoke at length about the pitfalls of not having a robust measurement in place. He brought to fore reasons behind third-party digital measurement not being rolled out in spite of ABC and BARC being capability ready. He concluded his address with an emphatic appeal to all stakeholders to come together and get digital measurement off the ground as it is beneficial to all including advertisers, agencies and platforms.  Marketers, he said, can play a pivotal role by insisting on seeing third party data before they put their money on digital.

Here are key excerpts from his insightful and lucid address:

“Let me begin my discussion by answering the question, why do we need measurement? Indian economy is a powerful economy and has done very well for last so many years. However, advertising is only about 6% of GDP, in my view it is being underleveraged.

We have a peculiar situation, most large global media networks be it television, print or digital, are in India now – as an outcome, we are flushed with inventory, more so on television and digital side. So, basically volumes are there but not much value. Having said that, it will hopefully change. There would be consolidation with only 5-6 players in the large ecosystem.

It is not very difficult for India to match up with countries like China and USA in terms of average GDP to advertising ratios, which means our average Adex ratio needs to multiply. One of the founding principles for growth in every discipline is performance. Similarly, in our case, for any marketer to invest more in advertising, performance has to be proven and only way to look at performance is through measurement. For advertising and media too, performance can be gauged only through measurement, which unfortunately is a little bit of an issue in our country.

I would club the issues affecting measurement in three broad buckets: First is technology. We are so price conscious that we are not ready to invest much in good technology. One of the key things TAM often spoke about, when they measured TV performance was that not even .1% or .2% of revenues are being put into measurement. That is the case with print even now. Television got rectified to some extent at the time BARC was set up as broadcasters took bold decision of giving 1% of their revenue to measurement capabilities.

Second important factor is the mindset – does measurement really work?

In BARC we have 40,000-50,000 meters, and BARC is asked on a regular basis if it is representative enough. Truly speaking at one level it is, but at another level, if you want to slice and dice the data, it is not enough. Problem is that even the biggest of DTH operators are putting cheap set top boxes, and putting people meters on top of them to measure what people are watching. Nowhere in the world do we find a similar scenario.

When the new TRAI guideline comes into force on 29th of December, it would change the entire broadcast system of this country. Consumers would be very happy but also confused, as they would not know how to call for the bouquet of channels or individual channels they want, and broadcasters would be worried. It would put the entire broadcast industry under pressure.

Third bucket is about the intent. Industry professionals say that measurement is good for things, but if they are unable to convert the potential of measurements into results, there comes the question ‘what it has done for me?’ People, in my view, are scared of measurement.

Coming to digital measurement, today we have a situation where we are absolutely ready both on publishing and video side with ABC and BARC respectively. It is the best of technology. Digital technology that is single source and covers both digital plus TV, is not there in many markets in the world. Best functioning market is the US and we have similar capability. Digital panel of BARC is ready, they have been testing it on a large sample size. All the investments have been made. Many digital players, however, are debating in their head, whether allowing digital measurement is good or bad. They have broadcast platforms, OTT platforms, and digital platforms that are monsters outside – that is Google and Facebook.

In absence of a third-party digital measurement capability, advertisers clearly do not know the impact of their digital spends either individually or together with TV.

Coming back to the intent, it is a bigger problem in this country than actual capability of measurement. It is a combination of both – should I pay for this and whether is it worth my while!

If advertisers don’t start pushing and refuse to go further unless measurement is in place, things would not move at the pace they must. They have to emphasise that they would buy digital only if there are numbers which are third party and not self-related.

“Taking the example of BARC, it is based on the French model, and when we went to France, broadcasters took us through the journey. They explained how the growth happened in their business and advertising revenues over a period of time. If the ecosystem - be it television, print, digital or radio - is cross media and we are able to compare, only then the marketers’ interest would increase.

Look at other parts of the world, they are mapping media inputs to consumer buying cycle. Walmart and Facebook have come together to measure how the consumers are viewing their stuff on Facebook and how they are buying it through their cart. This is where measurement should truly be.

Leaders in the industry here must show the intent. Temporary aberrations might happen initially but in the long run it would be good for the industry.

If we are able to take our discussion with the CEO of a company beyond GRPs and tell him/her what is working and what is not working, in the long run it would definitely be good for the industry.

If we initiate third party measurement in digital space, finally the world would catch up. It is not that someone will use their own matrix in that scenario.

Another thing that amazes me is that largest platforms on digital are measured on desktop and not on mobile for a country that is 90 – 95% mobile.  Is it a technology issue? Is it an intent issue? I don’t know the answer, but I am sure someone would know it.

I know it is a struggle, but I am sure one day we would get there because people would realise that capability exists and if we don’t participate, we would be left by the wayside.

I genuinely believe that TV has a huge potential and it would not go away, even print has potential. But if we do not participate in the environment and ecosystem that is there, we would ourselves kill the industries. Let us not stagnate. My appeal is to participate in measurement, it would help us grow and also get support, as it has done all over the world.”

Watch the full video below.


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