A new formula to 'Engross'

The biggest threat for advertisers is rapidly climbing as the rate of 'ad avoidance' crosses the 70 per cent threshold across all media, among both active and passive avoiders. What's more alarming is the fact that ad avoidance is higher in rural India than in urban areas.

As this trend is expected to go even higher, Intellect, a part of the Lintas Media Group in association with Hansa Research Group released the findings of a study titled 'Engross, a media engagement and ad avoidance study.'

Lintas India Pvt. Ltd director media services Lynn de Souza addressed a gathering of media planners, owners and clients, alerting them of the implications of this growing menace for the industry.

"We have all been battling with ad avoidance for a while," says de Souza. "What we certainly didn't expect were such high avoidance levels, even in rural areas, and even on the internet. That is clearly a reflection of the consumer's overall disapproval of the enormously high and growing ad clutter levels and is an issue that media owners should seriously take on board. In an attempt to reduce per unit prices they often simply increase the inventory on offer in an ad sales package, which results in high clutter, and high avoidance of the very ads they are trying to get more of!"

What emerged as a result of the findings, de Souza said, was not that this group of 'heavy media consumers' disliked advertisements altogether, but instead they choose to avoid the growing clutter that they perceive to be dominating the media landscape. Encompassing all mass media including TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, outdoor and internet, her advice to fellow media experts, was that flooding the environment with an overdose of brands will ultimately lead the consumer to turn away from advertisements.

With specific reference to television, this will pose a big 'risk' to the so-called burgeoning branded entertainment industry, which is just beginning to bear fruit in India. What's more, the changing technological media environment will aid passive ad avoiders to quickly become active in doing the same.

Spanning two months, October and November, Intellect engaged Hansa Research to update its biannual ad avoidance measures. This year the study included an understanding of how various consumer segments engage themselves with different genres of mass media, including sport, news, movies, education, fashion, serials etc.

Besides narrowing in on an urban sample size of 1,073 respondents (SEC A, 15-40 year olds, students, housewives, working people) across Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad, the study also captured the behaviour of the rural audiences. The Bharat Barometer (Intellect's joint venture with ITC's e chaupal network) was used to estimate the same measures by contacting 892 people in rural UP, Maharashtra and AP. These included 606 e chaupal Sanchalaks and 286 rural women.

On having conceived the study, Initiative senior vice president Premjeet Sodhi said, "We are still discovering new nuggets of information each time we analyse the findings. This study is directly applicable to the media planning needs of our various clients who focus on the key youth, housewife, and working segments, and also provides us with data on the 'upper market' rural audiences which the industry has never had at such a detailed level earlier."

Focusing on two verticals within the framework of a consumer's media interaction - content and ambient design. The former drives engagement while the latter generates avoidance which has greatly risen from last year across media. Based on the content vertical, the study highlighted the degree of engagement taking four main factors - Content, Relevance, Interactivity and Personalisation (CRIP score). Thus, Intellect has devised 305 CRIP scores across 61 genres and five target groups to be used by media planners to improve media selection.

Speaking about the method used to administer the study, Intellect associate VP Julius Augustine says, "The most important part of the study was the development of the statements that would measure engagement across the four parameters of content, relevance, interactivity and personalization (CRIP).

"We needed to measure engagement not just at the media but also at the genre level. Hence, part of the questionnaire was self administered, guided by the interviewer. The respondent had to place all the genres simultaneously on an engagement scale at the same time for each statement separately. Hence, if needed, the respondent could go back and change his ratings as each new medium was presented (For example, he began to compare news on TV with news in dailies) till he had rated all genres to his or her satisfaction."

Using the CRIP score which is synonymous with engagement, Engross concluded that the more engaging the content the lower the ad avoidance (except for magazines). More specifically, the more consumers are engaged with a particular genre, the less likely are they to avoid ads in that genre.

Some of the findings also revealed data that would provide a ray of hope for the umpteen news channels, as news on television has emerged as more engaging than in newspapers.

However, the biggest challenge for advertisers comes from 'student' consumers, as regardless of the degree of engagement with a particular genre, the level of ad avoidance remains high.

In this day and age when media clutter is commonplace and every brand attempts to adopt newer ways to 'break through that clutter,' the essence of creating engaging content somehow gets displaced. All in all the core aim of seducing the consumer also gets blurred!

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