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2009: Television media can certainly say "Aal Izz Well"By Zeel chief revenue officer Joy Chakraborthy

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In view of the global economic meltdown and its imminent impact on the advertising, 2009 was bound to be a challenging and tumultuous year. But, even as we entered into a rather gloomy 2009, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope that India would manage to insulate itself, at least in part, from the global downswing. And guess what?

Our 1.1 billion-plus population, which until now has always been perceived as the hindering factor to growth, came to our rescue wherein the consumption of basic amenities of “ROTI, KAPADA & MAKAAN” ensured that organic growth across sectors is not stifled. Top this up with our undying quest for “KUSHI” (or constant up-gradation of our standard of living) which during the 2nd half of the year spurred the growth rates back onto the high single-digit figures.

In the first half of the year, the fear of an impending downturn led to cost-rationalisation initiatives . . . especially in the sphere of marketing budgets. This resulted in marketers intensely re-evaluating their ad-spends. With focus on sustaining consumption of their products (which was coming from every nook & corner of India), marketers re-visited their basics of reach and frequency.

Also, marketers adopted a stingy spending strategy. With splurging on high-value flashy media initiatives becoming a luxury that no one could indulge in, it was imperative to gain market shares in a declining market. The FMCG sector increased their ad investment by nearly 30 per cent, but on cost-effective options that yielded them better returns on media investments. This helped them grow their sales by six per cent.

So, one of the most important positives to have emerged from 2009 is that marketers have realized the true potential of television in terms of reach and cost-efficiencies. With FMCG leading the way and viewing TV more optimistically than print, other sectors such as auto and telecom followed suit.

So, let’s see how Television has evolved during last year:

The emergence of Colors not only transformed the Hindi GEC space into a “3-player” genre but, more importantly, provided viewers with varied & diverse content and advertisers with multiple options to reach out to their consumers. This facilitated the genre to grow both in terms of viewership and ad revenue.

Given the multiplicity of options and lower switching costs coupled with the marketers’ imperative of cost rationalization and reach maximization, “purple” GRPs became their key buying parameter. Broadcasters who quickly took advantage and managed to get their content propositions right reaped the highest benefits.

Towards this end, while most networks busied themselves in attracting higher GRPs (to become No. 1) by initiating extravagant programmes with high-value celebrities and airing movies, Zee, on the other hand, focused on developing relevant and strong properties which helped us become leaders in “prime time”.

So, the key to TV sales evolved around developing relevant, cost effective but plain vanilla sales propositions with high service quotient. As such, with our sales approach to optimally monetize these “purple” GRPs, we garnered highest revenue.

Moreover, with marketers demanding “localization”, regional channels gained acceptance and emerged as key drivers of growth. Our host of regional channels capitalized on this through complementary media propositions to our advertisers.

A key TV sales imperative emerging from the cost-conscious marketer was the need to leverage “network strength” across genres / markets as compared to offering a proposition based on merely one or two channels. The wider the range of the network’s bouquet, the better the ability to provide a comprehensive package to the marketer and thereby garner maximum share of client spends.

Despite all the above sales approaches, the two factors which, to my mind, truly provided the only competitive advantage in this hyper-competitive environment are “people” and “relationships”. Broadcasters who stayed away from rampant “right-sizing” initiatives have benefited not only because of highly energized sales but also, more importantly, as it gave them more “feet on the street” whose relationships with clients and agencies could now be leveraged.

In summation, Indian media (in general) and the television media (specifically) can certainly say “Aal Izz Well” and look forward for another enthralling year of high competitiveness.

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