"Media innovations have become an expected deliverable from any media agency" : Madison Media chief operating officer (North and South), C. V. L. Srinivas on 'media innovation'

As the battle among the media agencies gets more intense and media fragmentation gets more pronounced, it is surely challenging for any media professional to come up with new ideas to break away from the clutter. To manage a judicious combination of an advertisement and editorial in print media or associating a brand with television programming is tougher than ever before.

Clinic All Clear Campus Fundas and Birla Sun Life advertisement in newspapers or branded television show such as Tide Khel Khel Mein are some of the recent efforts to take a different route to associate with the consumer. But is there enough innovation in true sense? How should media specialist go about the task of doing differential work?

In its endeavour to provide an insight into new trends, got in touch with CVL Srinivas, chief operating officer (North and South), Madison Media.

"Most clients and media professionals fear to take the 'innovative' route. There is hardly any risk taking," this is what Srinivas had said during an interview with last month.

Ritesh Gupta got in touch with Srinivas for a detailed conversation on media innovation. Excerpts:



What is your view on media innovation with so many media houses in the fray and tremendous fragmentation in the media?

Media innovation firstly needs to be properly defined - one finds the term being used in a flippant manner and very loosely these days. Strictly speaking, an innovation is something that hasn't been done before. Media innovation, in the true sense, is a creative use of a medium or the creative adaptation of a message to a medium - something that hasn't been done before. It is not just sponsoring a programme or doing a road block on TV.

Yes, there are more media innovations today than 10 years ago - simply because you couldn't do too many innovations with monopolistic media. Today, there are many more media vehicles that are open to providing a brand more avenues than just regular advertising. Also, with increasing clutter levels and the need to get more bang for the buck, media innovations have become an expected deliverable from any media agency.



What kind of costs is one looking at whilst thinking of media innovations?

Innovations can be of various types and can vary in scale. The 'cost' of an innovation will obviously depend on the 'type' of innovation and the scale. It also depends on how 'innovatively' the media buyer is able to negotiate the deal!!

Lets look at two extreme cases:

a) Imaginative use of an existing format: if the media buyer spots an existing format that can be used to work out a media innovation, this can come as part of the regular deal and can be built into the deal negotiation. As long as the media owner doesn't incur a cost for it, the buyer should be able to get it as a part of his overall commitment to the media vehicle.

b) Creating a new format in a medium or creating your own medium: This is the other extreme case, wherein the media buyer gets the medium to create a new format. More often than not, this involves a cost that has to be partly borne by the advertiser. How much of the additional cost will be picked up by the advertiser - will depend on the negotiation skill of the buyer.

There are various other types of innovation. For example - different shape/form/size of creative unit. The costs would depend on which media vehicle has been chosen and the negotiating power of the buyer.

It is extremely difficult to put a number to what an innovation should ideally cost. No model in the world can accurately measure the impact of an innovation. It, therefore, depends on each brand's budget, its media objective and the 'role' the innovation would play in achieving that objective.

Innovation cannot be only 'number driven'; there is a high degree of gut-feel; also a high chance of failure. Media innovation ultimately requires somebody in the system (either on the advertiser's side or the agency side) to have the guts to take a risk. I'm sure most successful innovations were not done with too much of number-work and benchmarking.



Recently, new branded shows have been launched on TV. What do you think is the key in this innovation?

Advertisers and agencies spend a lot of time in working out a fit between a programme and the brand. But, somewhere along the way, most of us forget that the viewer is the ultimate judge of a programme. The viewer doesn't care who is "branding" it, and whether the brand proposition is getting accurately reflected in the programme or not..!!

All he wants is good entertainment. In most cases where a branded programme has failed to take off, it is because the programme was made for the brand and not the viewer.

There have been exceptions of course. Programmes that are innovative in concept, presentation and that have sustained viewer interest for a long period of time, are the ones that succeeded. Brands that rode on such programmes benefited.



"Advertisers and agencies need to take trade-off calls, between the bigness of the idea v/s the consumers reached"



How do you evaluate the channel?

Evaluating a channel for a media innovation starts with the basic premise that the channel makes sense in the media campaign; that it reaches high numbers within the target group amongst others. Once this is clear, it really depends on the particular opportunity that is available and the cost of such an innovation.

Advertisers and agencies need to take trade-off calls - between the bigness of the idea versus the consumers reached. We did a 'spot the Cinthol logo' contest on Sony TV sometime ago, as it was a win-win idea for us and the channel. We were the first to launch a product on a TV show- Maruti Versa on Star Plus' Khul ja Sim Sim, as we felt the programme format was perfect for a launch.

More recently, when ESPN decided to liven up their cricket broadcasts with animation characters, we saw a huge opportunity for our client Perfetti. We adapted brand ideas to the characters to get a never-before property on a leading sports channel.



What about placing a brand only on one particular channel. For instance, in case of a brand on a news channel during the news bulletin or weather update?

Weather bulletin and stock market segments are used by brands for sheer association value. I don't think one-off associations work. For example, if one has six news channels and a brand logo is flashing during a weather bulletin on any one channel, it may not be able to make the brand associate with weather bulletins in general. Other channels will have other brands and nobody ends up owning this property. Such associations need to be sustained over a period of time, preferably across vehicles.

When we decided to use the replay bug on cricket for our client BPL, we owned it across all types of cricket, across all channels that show cricket, for two years. ESPN carried "replay of the day" in their sports bulletins to further build the property. Even till this day, BPL is synonymous with the replay bug.



What about in-serial advertising?

In-serial or In-film advertising is a smart way of getting brand mileage. It would help if the brand has an objective that it wants to meet through in-serial advertising. For example, just being present in the background; or on hoardings when there is a chase-sequence is not much value for an established brand.

These things work better for brands that are new, or those wanting to climb up the ladder. For established brands, the challenge is to integrate the brand proposition with the storyline, in such a way that it doesn't subtract from the entertainment value of the programme. Coke in the movie Taal was an excellent example.



So how much time is devoted to studying the content or genre?

The television channels know their audience best. They are the ones who devise strategy for content and I believe that it must be left to them. Since media planners and buyers know their brands, they can work with the channels to spot opportunities and develop these for their brands.



"Many innovations that might work in print, may not work in television and vice-versa. So planners need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both the mediums"



What about innovation in print media?

Print has seen some innovation in the last few years, in terms of lay-outs and positions and advertising and editorial combinations. Lot of advertorials are seen in magazines, where products are cleverly pushed through an editorial kind of a format.

With increasing number of colour pages in dailies, playing with colour has become an another route.



For instance, mobile service providers using teaser campaigns quite often in dailies?

Advertisers need to keep in mind the advantages as well as the limitations which the print medium has. Print offers one OTS a day where as television offers a several OTS a day. Print also has upto 24 hours between two interactions. And remember, the reader would have seen/heard/listened to atleast 100 other ad messages in this span of time.

But, on the other hand, print carries a lot more credibility than other media. Print is also extremely impactful to make an announcement. The more "newsy" the brand announcement, the better print lends itself. Also, the segmentation that is possible with print is immense. Different ideas can be adapted to each sub-group and actioned in different vehicles.

Many innovations that might work in print, may not work in television and vice-versa. So planners need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both the mediums.



How do you foresee things changing in cinema with mushrooming of multiplexes and much more of them in the pipeline?

The boom has sort of started and it is a welcome development especially considering the fact it is happening in the key markets - the metropolitan cities. Looks like people are going back to cinema because of multiplexes. It provides a good opportunity for advertisers to tap a captive audience. People at a cinema seek entertainment and are willing to get entertained by all possible modes.



How has the current licencing structure affected the opportunities in radio?

Radio is a wonderful medium as it gives immense scope for integrating content with the brand message. Hopefully, we'll see more innovations on radio when we move to a more sensible radio policy.

I don't think our industry understands the medium too well - most agencies think TV or Press when they conceptualise a campaign. The radio ad at best is an afterthought. The radio stations must play a very proactive role when things get better, to get advertisers to appreciate the medium and what kind of innovations can be done on it.



"Innovative use of media however is still quite limited. It's a pity, but most clients and media professionals fear to take the "innovative" route. There is hardly any risk taking"



A lot of companies have forayed into wireless platform such as SMS contest. How is it gaining importance?

More and more marketers are trying to create a '360-degree connect' with the consumer. So all forms of media have a role to play. Mobile phones and SMS are also media vehicles, and their numbers are increasing by the day.

They can be used as extremely focussed vehicles for innovation. They may not provide the standalone impact a TV or print or radio can provide but are, at best, support media.



How would you rate work done by fellow media professionals? Is there enough innovation?

Media is still evolving - although there is much more interest in the function today than when I started. Overall, we have made great strides in media measurement, research and planning.




Also read: "Most clients and media professionals fear to take the 'innovative' route. There is hardly any risk taking" Madison Media chief operating officer (North and South), C. V. L. Srinivas.


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