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File Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
File Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Brands favour eyeballs over ad climate on TV

Brands are driven by the ROI metric that doesn’t yet get guided by softer aspects

As television news channels stoop to new lows in India in the wake of the unfortunate demise of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, the debate on the quality and standard of television journalism has been reignited. While some woke citizens and journalists have taken to Twitter to condemn the relentless, misleading and biased coverage of the tragic event, there has been no action against any media platform. The infamous channels, both Hindi and English, continue peddling fake news and sensationalism in a bid to grab eyeballs. The life of Rajput and his partner Rhea Chakravorty, who was arrested Tuesday, has been dissected ad nauseam ensuring high viewership ratings that translates into advertising.

A plethora of brands pick news channels to advertise, irrespective of the venom they spew against people and communities. Last month, Sudarshan TV, a Hindi news channel posted a 45-second promo of its programme Bindas Bol claiming that Muslims are gradually taking over the prestigious civil services of India and titled it ‘UPSC jihad’. The Delhi high court stayed the broadcast of the show while netizens called out homegrown dairy brand Amul for advertising on the channel.

According to data from AdEx India, a division of TAM Media Research, between 20 July and 20 August, when Rajput’s death was in focus, brands such as Amazon, Airtel, Kia Sonet, MG Hector Plus, Vivo, Flipkart, Hyundai, Colgate and Amul, among many others, were on Zee News in Hindi. On the English news channel Times Now, in addition to these brands there was Honda City, Qatar Airways and Samsung Galaxy Note, among the top 25 advertisers. Mountain Dew, Vedantu, Fortune atta, Reliance Trends and Byju’s learning app were among the top 25 on Republic TV. Sudarshan TV, meanwhile, had fewer and lesser known brands, barring Amul.

Interestingly, while some brands suspended advertising on Facebook for hate content, not many think twice about associating with the country’s news channels. Ashish Mishra, managing director, Interbrand India, a marketing and branding consultancy, said Facebook is one of the strongest brands to have emerged in recent times. “It has had one of the highest growths in brand value ever, even in our Best Global Brands league table’s history. A closer analysis of the brand reveals that its strengths lie in its incredible engagement with users."

With great affinity and engagement come great expectations and disappointments. “What this means is while viewers may resent hateful and ideologically conflicting content on conventional media, they reconcile to it as politically and commercially motivated. The regular broadcasters have always been seen as biased and ‘sold’ channels of one-way communication. One might feel hurt and angered but doesn’t engage with it," Mishra said. However, the same viewer becomes a ‘user’ and ‘owner’ of the content on Facebook. “The ‘friend shared or commented’ content is indeed a lot more personal and hence a conflict of ideology there creates far greater impact. This may explain why one sees the intense scrutiny and pushbacks on the conflicts and suspected manipulations on FB", he added.

Samit Sinha, managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting, highlighted how advertisers make their media selection, primarily driven by numbers. Media planning agencies use readership, viewership and listenership data, and employ algorithms to arrive at the optimum media mix to ensure maximum cost-effectiveness of reach and frequency of the messages among their identified and defined target consumers.

Media planners now have access to greater amounts of data, which is also much richer and more precise, further reducing the need for qualitative judgement. “As long as large numbers of people continue to consume content on these dominant digital platforms and TV channels, advertisers will continue to use them to advertise. It is only when a significant proportion of the public starts rejecting these platforms and channels, will the advertisers look for alternatives," Sinha added. However, boycotting such media requires a bold stand and he doesn’t see it happening any time soon. Mishra agreed. Brands are driven by the ROI metric that doesn’t yet get guided by softer aspects. “Higher philosophical compatibility and values overlap are factors that may evolve in times to come. Only then will brands be faced with more existential questions on their media choices."

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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