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'3 out of 10 brands are saying no to advertising on news channels'

Sponsors of problematic news content could face far-reaching impact on brand equity.

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NEW DELHI: News channels have always been a big part of the media mix for any advertiser; they enjoy a sizeable share of eyeballs and have been known as a brand-safe space to be present on. However, in the past few months, advertisers have become gravely concerned by the controversies around news content, as well as the TRP manipulation scandal that has come to the fore. The existing news space, especially on TV, has called for a strong inspection on advertisers’ part, and a few of them have already pulled out ad money from some channels.

In a recently concluded Indiantelevision.com webinar called “Is Your Brand Truly Safe: Decoding The Right Brand Equity With The Power Of Trust” — powered by BBC World News and BBC.com, and moderated by Indiantelevision.com founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari - leading marketers and advertisers unanimously agreed that their faith in news television has eroded to a great extent.

Sitting in the panel were Wavemaker CEO - South Asia Ajay Gupte, Parle Products Pvt Ltd senior category head - marketing Krishnarao S Buddha, Future Group CMO - FBB Prachi Mohapatra, BBC Global News MD India Rahul Sood, PolicyBazaar head of marketing Samir Sethi, Accenture MD supply chain, network, and sales operations Shekhar Tiwari and Initiative CEO Vaishali Verma.

Verma claimed that three out of every ten clients of hers has already said no to advertising on news channels.

“As a consumer of news, I can say that the content has been sensationalised, there is no investigative journalism left, and as a result, we are seeing brands taking a different route when it comes to their media mixes. There definitely has been a loss of credibility,” she said.

Tiwari noted that news is not news if one needs to go and validate it, but today the consumers are forced to do that. This has resulted in the lack of credibility that advertisers are also taking into account.

Sood added that the environment around news television has been such of late that he can no longer proudly flaunt his association with the industry. “This says a lot about the state of media right now.”

Buddha, whose Parle products will no longer advertise on some of the top news channels in the country, said, “News channels are going overboard, the content is toxic and the news they show is really not relevant. I do not want my brand to be seen with the content that these channels are peddling.”

Earlier, news channels used to be a big part of their media mix given the credible and brand-safe environment that they created, shared Mohapatra. “The two core factors for us have been the viewership the news genre generates and the credibility it has, but if that is being compromised, we will definitely rethink our media mix.”

However, not all brands are wary of their presence on any form of content, be it good or bad, in news media.

Verma highlighted that every brand has its own lakshman rekha (boundary) that it follows. “Some brands have taken out their ad monies and that was absolutely right on their part. Some are still continuing to advertise and it is only because the medium is still relevant to them. They have their audience consuming that content.”

Gupte, in the same vein, reflected that each news channel serves the content that their audience likes viewing. “It is delivering what is being consumed. And if there is a collective movement where people dismiss this kind of content and stop viewing it, the viewership will go down and it makes sense from a business perspective.”

PolicyBazaar’s Sethi agreed and pointed out that news is a competitive genre and there is significant advertising demand there. “For a product category like ours where primary customers are male, we get that reach from news channels.”

However, he added that news channels cannot shy away from their responsibilities of being a credible and trustworthy source of valid information.

But could the continued association with ‘problematic’ news content impact the brand equity at large?

The panel agreed that it has a long-lasting impact on any brand’s image and equity as customers are more sensitive and sensible these days. At the same time, it also depends on the level of association the advertiser has with the channel or a particular piece of content.

Gupte stated, “The impact on brand equity hugely depends on the level of association. For example, it’s more difficult on platforms like YouTube where a single advertiser might be visible on the whole duration of the content. Also, it depends on the brand too.”

Sethi added, “Obviously a sponsor is much more deeply associated with the content than someone who is doing vanilla spot advertising with maybe 20 other brands.”

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