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Smarter data and innovations in news selling should go hand in hand

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MUMBAI: At the Seventh Indian News Television Summit, a panel comprising Zee Sangam national sales head Harsha Vardhan Dwivedi, IndiaTV senior VP and country head ad sales Sudipto Chowdhuri, CNN IBN and IBN 7 national revenue head Vishal Bhatnagar, Times Television Network senior VP business head branded content Hemant Arora, GroupM south Asia CEO CVL Srinivas and IPG Mediabrands Initiatives CEO Anamika Mehta discussed the various means for ‘Innovation in news selling’.

The session moderated by Provocateur Advisory principal Paritosh Joshi revolved around how media agencies can increase brands’ ROI from news channels.

Joshi began by saying that one expects the sales and strategy team in a news channel to show more interesting numbers but what one gets is a rehash of an existing standard rating currency. According to Arora, the right clients, revenue and ROI comes when he and his team turns the big data into smart data. 

 “It is not just about the data but one has to be able to effectively show how it can impact the marketing objectives. But the matrix system that is currently in use does not really allow sellers and buyers to go beyond it. Eventually it comes down to CPR, slot rates etc and the value that is being offered. Times Now, for example, does not need to be a news channel, it is part of life. It’s the hue we create with our brand and then we pass on the benefit to the brand which wants to be a part of the ecosystem,” said Arora.

Dwivedi then speaking about the revenue of regional channels said that of the total business that regional channels have been making, only 40 per cent comes from corporate and thus, 60 per cent is supported by government and SMEs. “If it was not for the government and SME, the regional channels would not have been able to survive,” he said adding that two years ago there were 14 news channels in Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand, while today out of that only four are operating while others have shut down.

Joshi, addressing Mehta, recalled the days when he sold ad inventories. “Those days, agencies worked towards “de-selling brands”, because they had a personal grouse against a particular brand or they simply ignored them and therefore, sometimes broadcasters did approach the client directly to bring them on to their media plan. Now, how healthy is the entire ecosystem?” he questioned.

Mehta agreed to the fact that personal biases could exist in the industry. Credibility of content is what matters and we don’t often see channels coming to us and sharing insights beyond just a channel share, rating etc. She illustrated her point by giving an example. “We have brands like Dettol, which as a pure FMCG typically would be on the GEC platform, Hindi movies and not on a English news channel. However, taking from the national agenda of the Prime Minister which is Swatch India, we tied the brand with it in terms of sanitation,” she said. Integrating the brand and creating custom solutions gave far greater ROI.

Bhatnagar joined the conversation and said that the most important thing is how well one understands the product. “There is a huge responsibility on us to understand what business we are in. Are we in the business of just farming inventory and off loading the inventory?” he asked. He then mentioned that today a lot innovation depends on the kind of discussion news channels have with the agencies or clients. “For example, we tried to do something innovative with Microsoft during elections. And Microsoft of all things wanted to talk about analytics which on news channels does initially snicker people. But then we sat down with the agency, Lodestar, and discussed the various possibilities before pitching for it,” he added. The initiative got Microsoft a lot of feedback globally in terms of how to engage with audiences.

According to Chowdhuri innovation has to be like the topping on a pizza but it can’t be the pizza. “Some news channels may  have done deals like 20 L bands a day for 365 days a year into two years adding up to Rs 5 crore. So, while your content is on screen, the advertisement too comes on screen. Hence, if you have ‘X’ million viewership for a programme then you have the same number of viewers for the ad as well,” he said.

Srinivasan had the last word in the discussion when he was asked if agencies and news channels were ahead of time when it comes to digital. “I think we are a bit late because while digital might be eight per cent of the total adex in India, it occupies 80 per cent of the time with conversation with clients. Today every campaign that is conceptualised, you end up spending a little on digital but the whole thought of promoting and creating the buzz is steeped towards digital. There are huge opportunities to win from digital,” he concluded.

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