Mumbai: The Indian Premier League (IPL), the Twenty20 league promoted by India’s top cricket administrator BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India), is set to start on Friday and action is hotting up on the advertising front on MAX—part of Sony Entertainment Television (SET) — which has exclusive broadcast rights for the league.
Brand benefits: (L to R) A file photo of IPL chairman Lalit Modi, owner of the Kolkata team Shah Rukh Khan and owner of the Mohali team Priety Zinta. The Twenty20 league begins on Friday.
One media buyer said that Dentsu India and WPP Group Plc.’s GroupM India Pvt. Ltd may be seeking or competing to buy a healthy slab of remaining ad inventory for the event and that the process to do this is underway. He added that around 17% of the ad inventory is yet to be sold, as is a substantial amount of non-live inventory (typically during programmes featuring experts and others in the run-up to the match and after it). The buyer said Dentsu would have an edge in buying this ad inventory because of the “thin common bloodline between them,” implicitly referring to the Japanese roots of Sony and Dentsu.
This media buyer and another also said that Dentsu may be selling or looking at selling IPL ad inventory to outside agencies and non-Dentsu clients. SET president Rohit Gupta declined to comment on both subjects. He said that about 10% of live inventory was still unsold, which would be sold at the last minute. Companies usually retain some ad inventory to sell at the last minute as they expect advertisers to scramble and pay a premium.
Sandeep Goyal, chairman, Dentsu India, said he did not wish to discuss the subject and threatened to sue Mint if it went ahead and ran a story related to his company’s interest in the ad inventory.
Neither of the two media buyers wish to be identified.
“GroupM is representing clients and has not blocked or picked up inventory for resale. So, there is no question of any bidding war with Dentsu. We believe that IPL can be a powerful media property that brands can effectively leverage for salience and sponsorship. We understand that prevailing rates and a concentrated burst of six weeks is leading to significant deployment of budgets in a short period. But for some client tasks, such as launches, we still see this as a very effective media option,” said Vikram Sakhuja, COO, South Asia, GroupM.
Dentsu may have helped sell IPL ad inventory that was not last-minute even before this, said one of the buyers. A leading retail advertiser, who did not wish to be identified, said Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd (BCCL), publisher of The Times of India and The Economic Times, had offered it and a few of their advertisers IPL inventory as a cross-media package with their print ad inventory.
Some of this IPL inventory, claimed the buyer, did not come from Sony, but was sourced from Dentsu. Sony’s Gupta declined to comment on BCCL selling IPL inventory sourced from Dentsu. BCCL deputy director Sujoy Ghosh said he was not “in a position to comment on your hypothesis”. Bhaskar Das, executive president, The Times of India group, was travelling, and did not respond to Mint’s phone calls and emails. Rahul Kansal, brand director, Times Group, said he wasn’t the right person to comment on the subject.
Dentsu Media is the main promoter of Last Minute Media Pvt. Ltd, which runs Lastminuteinventory.com, an online interface that allows unsold ad inventory to be bought and sold. BCCL has a small stake in Last Minute Media.
It isn’t known if Dentsu is interested in buying the remaining inventory, as claimed by the two media buyers, for use of its own clients or whether it would sell them to others. In case of the latter, it isn’t known if the firm will use Last Minute Media to do so. Dentsu came under the scrutiny of the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and the Indian Broadcasting Foundation after allegations surfaced of the firm buying ad inventory related to the 2006 World Cup and then selling it to others. The two industry bodies see a conflict of interest in a media buying firm buying ads from broadcasters for sale to others and not for the use of its own clients.
“By convention, we would not like one media agency to sell ad time to another media agency’s clients. In the past, when we enquired with both Sony and Dentsu (about World Cup inventory), they told us that Dentsu had bought inventory only for its clients, ” said Sam Balsara, chairman, Madison Group and member of the AAAI executive committee. However, one of the media buyers said Lastminuteinventory.com could sell ad inventory sourced from Sony as it is run by Last Minute Media, an entity that is distinct and different from the agency itself.