'The efficiency with which television is working for advertisers has diminished' : Sam Balsara

Sam Balsara is man with a lot on his plate. Besides chasing an aggressive growth rate for Madison Communications, he is also chairman of MOMS (Madison Outdoor Media Services) and director of Anugrah Madison, the rural advertising unit of Madison. He also runs a Public Relations unit.

As a prominent member of the Indian marketing and advertising profession, Balsara has worn many hats. He has been president of the Advertising Club, Bombay, he was the vice-president of the Advertising Agencies Association of India and is currently chairman, Triple A Awards. He serves on the AAA-Indian Broadcasting Foundation joint committee and was the immediate past chairman of the Advertising Standards Council of India and a founder member of ECO-India, an organisation to promote environment-friendly actions.

He is a regular speaker at seminars and on fora pertaining to advertising and has served on several professional committees and judging panels.

On the business side of things, he just added a big piece to his plate after Madison won the entire Rs 1,000 million media account of the Rs 45,000-million Essel Group.

But such challenges are par for the course for this 50-something ad veteran. With over 25 years experience in the business, first with Mudra (1984), he founded Madison Communications in 1988 with three blue chip accounts - Godrej, Tata (Nelco) and Mafatlal. Today his agency's client list includes Procter & Gamble, BPL and Coke with current media billings of Rs 3,500 million.

Sam Balsara spoke to Tuhin Amar giving his own unique take on the state of the media business in the country.

You are rated amongst the best media buyers in the country. Can you comment?

Thank you for the flattery. I am wary of labels given by the media - because the same media that gives you a positive label on the way up, can also bring you crashing down with a negative label!!

What qualities are needed to be a good media buyer / planner?

The same qualities that are required of an outstanding advertising person, no less but with the added quality of a facility with numbers and an interest in them to make a story out of them.

When you are buying into a television programme, what are your first priorities - is it price, ambience, star quality, brand affinity?

The first priority or the fundamental requirement is meeting a CPRP benchmark. This benchmark is then relaxed to some extent because of the other considerations that you talk about like ambience, position, image, brand affinity, impact, innovation, etc.

How is your business split into print / TV / outdoors, etc.?

It's Television at number 1, Print at number 2 and Outdoors at number 3 in terms of billing.

What is the quantum of advertising that Madison handles on the television front? For which clients? Which brands?

We deal with just a handful of clients.

Madison Media clients are:

Procter & Gamble






Somany Tiles and Hind Sanitaryware


Full Service clients are:

Godrej Consumer Products (Godrej Shaving Cream)

Godrej Foods (Jumpin, Xs and Godrej Cooking Oils)

Milton Plastics

SOM Distilleries

Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri, Zaveri Bazaar


Rasna (New brand)

Amtrex Hitachi (Amtrex)

In addition we have independent clients in Madison PR, Madison Outdoor and Anugrah Madison.

What do you think of television as an advertising medium as compared to other media? Has it disappointed or has it delivered? What are its plus points and its negative points?

Television was a wonderful advertising medium in the late 80s and early 90s. It produced miraculous results for the early advertiser who recognised its ability to deliver sales. Of late, the efficiency with which television is working for advertisers has diminished sharply making advertisers loose confidence and hastily divert brand building money to below-the-line temporary sales shoring-up activity with disastrous long term consequences.

For e.g.: In the last six years the advertising volumes have gone up from about Rs 2000 crores (Rs 20,000 million) to Rs 8000 crores. Taking an average (advertising to sales) A-S ratio of 4 per cent, this should have resulted in additional sales of Rs 125,000 crores for advertisers as a body. I suspect the real increase is nowhere near this figure.

There was a time not so long ago when we could buy a spot for less than a lakh of rupees (Rs 100,000) per 10 seconds and cover 50 per cent or more of the audience at one stroke. Today fragmentation has taken its toll and the cost of reaching this audience has multiplied. Whilst our creative executions have become more sophisticated and slick, they have not dramatically improved in their sales conversion ability to compensate for the CPRP inflation.

Do you think there is maturity in television ad sales professionals in terms of utilizing the potential of television as a promotional vehicle?

Yes, I do think maturity is setting in amongst television ad sales professionals, though I believe that selling advertising on television is a specialised job and not every salesperson of press advertising or a media buyer or a brand manager can easily slip into the role.

What innovations has Madison achieved in terms of buying or planning for TV? Can you give some illustrations?

The innovations are too numerous to mention here, but some of my personal favourites are:


(India's first daily soap in Hindi in the afternoon, that created afternoon viewing and gave advertisers' an opportunity to reach housewives at a fraction of the cost)

*BPL Player of Week

*Coke New Year Promotion

*Close Shave for Godrej Shaving Cream

*Fairglow Queen of Hearts

*Launch of Maruti Versa on a TV show.

*And some innovative discount structures that work for both the clients and the channels.

*On the Planning side we have evolved an entire new way of thinking that clients love because of its result-orientedness. We call it M:Cube.

Incidentally the Madison internal television operations software which has been in operation for the last four years is called ADWISE. So it is coincidental that you have decided to title your seminar "Adwise" ( is holding a one-day seminar "AdWise 2002" on TV air time, planning, selling and buying at the Mayfair Rooms in Worli, Mumbai on 22 March).

Is there enough innovation in television as a promotional medium? What changes do you think will come in over the coming years?

No, there isn't. And as the battle for the advertising rupee gets fiercer, channels will be forced to offer formats and structures that will more directly lead to sales for the advertiser.

Does Madison handle television independent of other media?

When it comes to planning, all media is looked at collectively, but when it comes to buying we have specialists for each medium and even within the medium we have experts for groups, for channels and publications.

How do you rate the performance of Madison Advertising so far?

… and I have miles to go before I sleep!

Are there any aspects, which could do with improvements?

Yes, many and we believe we have to improve by the day, otherwise we are dead.

Do you feel TV ratings are authentic? Why? CPRP, GRP, TRP - where do you think we are headed? What is the right currency?

TRP ratings are the right currency, although channels and producers seem to dislike them. They afford a uniform and comparable benchmark to the buyer. The industry is continuously striving to improve the reliability of the TRP system. It is utopian to expect the TRP system to be 100 per cent accurate. It can never be. It is meant to be a guide of what India watches.

Do you think the TV ad market has deteriorated? Do you expect growth in this sector?

Whilst the efficiency with which television has worked has come down in the last few years, I believe, at even this lower level it continues to be the most cost effective medium and therefore as our advertising volumes grow, it will grow. Perhaps its share of the advertising market, which has risen rapidly in the past, will now grow only marginally.

Do you think the way the market has polarized is good for the business?

The general rule in the market place across most product categories is that there is one very successful player, followed by another one or two and then there are many who just manage to make it.

Do you expect Star Plus to rule the roost? For how long? What is likely to change the leadership position? Who do you think is the most likely candidate to take over as number one - Zee, Sony, Sahara, Sabe?

The Madison view on this is not available for public consumption.

What do you feel is missing in the ad-sales pitch of Sahara and Sabe TV?

It is not easy to topple the leader and late entrants in most markets have a tough time to establish themselves and become profitable at a national level.

How does Madison Advertising rank amongst the media buyers and sellers in India and Asia?

I would like to think - very high!

Is India an important market today in media terms?

Yes, of course!

Who among these is the most innovative - Indian, Asian, European or the US TV?

My knowledge of Asian, European and US TV is not deep enough for me to comment on this aspect.

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