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#MediaMinds2| Advertisers must make ethical call on pandering to sensationalism: Vikram Sakhuja

Madison Media & OOH group CEO addresses the debate on brand health vs ethics

Vikram Sakhuja

NEW DELHI: Publishers of today are under more extensive scrutiny than ever. Consumers are far more aware and aren’t hesitant to question the sensationalism that they are peddling in the name of information and entertainment. Even some of the brands, globally, have started taking cognisance of the matter and have started pulling away ad monies from certain platforms like Facebook for hate speech and problematic content. This has given rise to an interesting discussion in the media and marketing ecosphere around what roles can advertisers play to curb this issue.

Madison Media & OOH group CEO Vikram Sakhuja, addressing the question in Media Minds season two, shared that there are two ways to look at the current scenario from an advertisers' standpoint: brand health and ethics. 

Comparing the situation to when he started his career with P&G in the late-80s, he stated that at that time the debate was about quantity v/s quality, which was also based on the core idea of the environment in which an ad is seen.

“When Aaj Tak started, advertisers used to think that most ads on the channel are of undergarments and whether it's suitable for my brand health to be visible there. At that point in time, the school of proper marketing told me if a consumer is seeing a particular programming, then they are there for a reason. And if they see your ad, it shouldn’t be a problem. In the case of P&G, in the early 90s, the quantity was always more important than quality.”

He adds that while in today’s time that quality vs quantity debate has got blurred because of tools like social media where ads are no longer seen as an interruption, but there is another debate that has started around what sort of content is surrounding a brand’s ad or branded content. “It is actually very important to actually raise this question even from a brand health standpoint,” he said.

Addressing the situation from an ethical standpoint, he shares that advertisers have to make the call around whether they want to pander to sensationalism or fake news.

“Even though it has, maybe, nothing to do with the brand ad that is placed next to it, the reason this sensationalising (happens) is because advertisers are going to come because of more eyeballs. So, if you take an ethical position on that and say, even if the eyeballs come there, I will not pander to that kind of sensationalism, it will, in fact, dry up the oxygen in that room, rather than give them more oxygen. Then you are actually disincentivising those same publishers from trying to take that strategy to monetise their business,” he added.

He said that as an agency head he will warn the advertiser if there is inflammatory content on a certain publisher’s channel or website, but he will leave the final decision on the brand head.

Apart from this, Sakhuja talked about his favourite subject - data, the need for a unified metric system in marketing and his plans for his agency going ahead.

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