TAM mess: statesmanship, not grandstanding, required

Broadcasters happy, marketers happy with TAM, we had said yesterday .

As TAM India, the company that measures television audiences in India, yielded to pressure from major broadcasters to change the data reporting from weekly to monthly and from share of audience to absolute numbers, broadcasters were happy puppies.

But...

"The new reporting for these channels will force advertisers to make decisions based on CPT (cost per thousand) as opposed to the current practice of CPRP (Cost per rating point). While the changes to the contracts of the channels mentioned above eases TAM's stress on some part of their revenue, one can expect the advertisers, who contribute a smaller, but important, share to TAM, will get into a huddle and plan their next steps. Thankfully, we are still a few months away from the critical festive season, so there is enough time to thrash out a solution. Till then, expect grandstanding and hard positions from both the broadcasters and advertisers. TAM will have a difficult time - for some time to come," we had said.

 TAM mess: statesmanship, not grandstanding, required

What could solve the problem? Statesmanship by representatives of the two groups - or a great mediator?

Now Firstpost understands that the grandstanding will begin shortly - with advertisers cancelling release orders one by one, protecting themselves from being accused of collective action. It will start as a trickle and merge into a flood.

Within the next fortnight, expect significant commitments to be cancelled so as to force an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between the agencies and advertisers on the one hand and broadcasters on the other.

TAM's failed strategy in trying to appease individual complainants rather than deal with the larger issues has resulted in this sorry state - and needlessly made itself the villain in the piece. At the core of the problems is the fact that the number of peoplemeters is woefully inadequate, thanks to the funds available being woefully inadequate. This is a problem that will not go away even if the touted TAM substitute, BARC, does get its act together by sometime next year.

If the current standoff is about weekly Vs. monthly reporting and CPT Vs. CPRP, there is no measurement system and no additional meters that can resolve it. It's a clash of cultures and beliefs and business imperatives.

It wasn't so long ago that agencies, advertisers and broadcasters were happily in the same bed, scratching each other's backs and doing each other favours. For example, Goafest and the Abbys, properties of industry bodies Advertising Agencies Association of India and The Advertising Club are funded, in large part, by broadcast brands - as a favour, when requested by their erstwhile friends, the head honchos of media and advertising agencies.

If the intimacy has collapsed and is headed for a painful divorce, the two sides can learn from how the real world treats the intent to separate. First, they try and get the two sides to find common ground through a mediator. If this fails, well, go your separate ways.

What are the issues that need to be thrashed out?

•Will it be monthly or weekly reporting?

•Will audiences be reported in absolute numbers or in shares?

•How many meters are required to measure adequately?

•Who will pay for the additional cost and in what proportion?

Instead of talking and addressing each other's concerns, what we see is grandstanding. The grandstanding will cause great pain to both parties: advertisers will lose their audiences and broadcasters their revenue. It's a no-win situation - but that's what many divorces are about. Both know that the decision is bad, but go ahead nevertheless, such is the collapse of trust and faith in each other.

What could solve the problem? Statesmanship by representatives of the two groups - or a great mediator.

Tragically, both seem to be impossible to find.

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Updated Date: Dec 21, 2014 04:22:24 IST