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Indian Media Review: Shashi Sinha addresses the elephant in the room -- common measurement

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MUMBAI: All eyes were trained on this year’s media review by The Advertising Club, what with the stalwarts of the industry repeatedly endorsing it on the social media weeks before the event took place. And indeed, the topic that the session addressed hit close to to every stakeholder in the industry alike -- be it publishers from across media, advertisers or media agencies. It was on having a common currency of measuring the effectiveness of media for advertising across platforms.

IPG Mediabrands CEO was one of the key speakers at the review. Shashi Sinha started off on a more comfortable note of how agencies can help businesses grow with an effective measurement.

According to him, “Instead of complaining that clients are demanding more accountability from the media they bought, agencies need to understand that better measurement gives CMOs better rationale for justifying better budgets.”

This ‘better measurability’, as per Sinha, is being achieved in several ways at present, primarily -- introduction of BARC’s measurement system for broadcasters, revival of the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) by next year, and digital.

The issue, Sinha emphasised, came down to whether the fraternity wanted to take a few more steps further to improve the system of measurement across media after understanding the need of the hour or whether they wanted to stall the progress and delay the combined measurement system.

Speaking specifically of the digital measurement system, Sinha shared that it was wrong to expect a panel of digital platforms or ‘OTT’ players to be self regulators of their measurement systems, given that the category is extremely fragmented. Therefore, he openly asked if "digital publishers are willing to be measured by third parties and be transparent with their numbers?”

Highlighting how the IRS, which Sinha expects to be fully functional in eight months, will increase the sample size of print publishers by 40 per cent, he added that multimedia evaluation was also being considered by the board.

Sinha expressed his welcome surprise at the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) testing the measurement possibilities in the publishing side of digital (as BARC only caters to video consumption measurements). “Unlike video measurement, it is relatively cheap and is actually already functional for the last three to four months. We just need the heavyweights in the medium to come to a consensus for it to be fully rolled out,” Sinha added.

After addressing and updating the audience about the different scopes of measurements in each media, Sinha quickly moved on to emphasise the need to have a common source of truth or ‘a single view of truth’

This brings him to suggest the ambitious idea of Media Research Users Council (MRUC), the IRS, BARC and ABC to come together to contribute to a common pool of data that can be further sliced and diced in accordance with each media based on the clients requirement, although Sinha agreed that currently major challenges were in making that thought become a reality.

Instead, one could start with thinking along the lines of a measurement currency that each media can be compared in, and according to Sinha, it is CPT,

“Television measurement needs to move from CPRP to CPT format, and that's a good starting point of having some commonality of currency between mediums. Publishers need to understand that moving from one currency system to the other doesn’t bring any difference in the buying and selling equation with clients. That will always be based on the demand-supply ratio,” assured Sinha, adding that the current CPT of channels is actually an opportunity to drive growth.

CPT or Cost Per Thousand is basically the advertising cost of reaching a certain number of viewers in a defined target group on television, while CPRP or Cost Per Rating Point is the cost of advertising time on television based on the price of time for a single rating point generated by the channel.

More mature markets such as the US, the UK and Germany have already switched to CPT as a currency when buying and selling television media.

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