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Media pros find TAM blackout inconceivable; but readying for chaos

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MUMBAI: That Television Audience Measurement‘s (TAM‘s) ratings are battling for survival is common knowledge. But how this will affect the advertising process on television? And also what will happen if broadcasters force their hand and have TAM‘s ratings shut down, if but for a while? How will media professionals buy and sell? Definitely questions that are worth taking a looksee.

And we spoke to that breed of professionals who create the ads, plan and do deals which go to make up the Rs 14,000 crore TV advertising spend in India - the ad agency pro, media planner and buyer.

Most expressed outright discomfort about the possibility of there being no TAM ratings; some even went so far ahead, disregarding it as speculation which will not come to pass.

AAAI president & Leo Burnett India south Asia chairman & CEO Arvind Sharma says: "We are crystal clear that advertisers will not work without the TAM ratings. There is no possibility that TAM ratings will be shut down."

Seconding Sharma, Maxus worldwide CEO Vikram Sakhuja states: "TAM shutdown for now seems to be speculation. We are not considering this scenario and will be looking for TAM ratings for media buying."

Mediacom MD Debraj Tripathy proffers his view: "Let‘s say hypothetically that I agree that there is a basic problem with the ratings. This doesn‘t mean that TAM has to be made to stop functioning. We have to address the problem instead of shutting down TAM. I am not open to discussion led by the mass and a unilateral decision. Any initiative against TAM has to be backed by data and research."

Tripathy, however, said if it is found that there is data insufficiency or incorrect data being dished out by TAM, then "it (shutdown) is permissible for a while, until TAM can make some perceived changes or until some other currency starts."

Most of them shuddered when they were told a TAM shutdown for a period is quite the way the broadcasters want to go. "There will be a chaotic situation," says Vivaki Exchange COO Mona Jain. "Chaos," shivers Tripathy. "I am not in favour of a unilateral decision by anyone as it will lead to utter chaos," echoes Madison Media COO Karthik Laxminarayan.

But nonetheless they have braced themselves for it and are open to using other methods to plan and buying for critical advertising buying decisions.

Says Jain: "In the interim period when there will be no ratings, we will either go with earlier data; if not, for new shows that are being launched we will go by assumptions and gut-feel."

Agrees Laxminarayan: "In case of no TAM, I will refer to earlier data or general assumptions."

Is it possible that advertisers will hand TAM a life belt to allow it to stay afloat even though broadcasters are attempting to sink it, albeit temporarily? Sharma said, "Let‘s not get into that question because it is obvious that funds are needed for TAM; and worldwide, broadcasters have funded the TV ratings. The industry needs to find out a solution collectively."

Hopefully. Until they do, it would be wise for all in the TV advertising value chain to get ready for a chilling TV-rating-free vacation.

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