Factors that complicate Media selection

If we cite the case of India, it can be seen that up to 1990-91, media planners in India could readily grasp the TV viewing habits of people by glancing through the television rating point (TRP) of programs on DD’s National Network. But with the exponential expansion of the medium, with multiple channel options from DD, cable and satellite TV, the situation has drastically changed. The expansion in channel options has been accompanied by a proliferation of programs in each channel. And, the combined effect of channel/program multiplication has been the large-scale fragmentation of audience and irregular viewer-ship of programs. In such a context, program choice based on TRPs comes under severe pressure. The constant fluctuations in viewer-ship and the resulting transience of the ratings affect the program choice. So, getting correct viewer-ship data is the key requirement. The difficulty here is that a given channel or program rarely maintains the same reach or efficiency over time. In fact, in many cases, the ratings vary widely over time. And hence, program selection can go wrong.

The low involvement of the viewer in the program being watched by him is another factor that makes the media planning task still more difficult. This problem is also linked to fragmentation of viewer-ship and the abundance of channels/programs. In fact, here lies a major limitation of TRP.

While TRP gives an indication of the quantum of audience for a program, it does not denote the audience’s involvement factor. A study conducted by the research agency O&M recently went into this issue.

The number of products / brands advertised on the various channels are steadily increasing. With so many brands on view, overcrowding and clutter has become an inevitable feature of TV advertising. The problem is further compounded by the concentration of advertisements during specific time slots/programs.

For example, surveys have revealed that on India’s national network, 20% of the telecast hours carry 60% of the total advertisements. Moreover, there is a string of 30 to 45 advertisements before a high reach program. Studies have also revealed that in a week, a single individual in a cable/satellite TV home might watch around 20 DD programs, 10 cable films and more than two dozen programs over various satellite channels. In such circumstances, it is becoming harder for a brand to stand out and command the attention of viewers. There is more and more competition for limited viewer attention. Studies also reveal that such clutter is part of the reason for the decreasing effectiveness of advertising. This situation throws more responsibility on the part of the advertising agency and especially the copywriter to make the advertisement really distinctive.

It is estimated that media cost inflation in the country has been around 15 to 25% per annum over the past five years. Advertisers feel that the increase in their advertising budget is getting neutralized by the rising cost of the media. In addition to this media cost push, advertisers now have to reckon with another cost dimension in their media spend. The new difficulty arises from the proliferation of channels and consequent fragmentation of viewer-ship mentioned earlier. Now to secure the same reach, much larger media spend has become necessary. Gone are the days when, with a spot in a single program like Mahabharata, over 80% of the country’s television viewers could be reached at one stroke. Today, to reach the same 80%, one has to spend across several channels and programs. This throws an added burden on media planners.