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Advertising Research and Media Planning

From the creation of advertisements we now move to another increasingly vital and creative area of the advertising profession. All your creativity would be useless, unless what you produce is seen or heard and acted upon. This can be guaranteed only by the most effective exposure in the media. Even creativity and planning and advertising campaigns can be determined to a considerable extent by the media used. There is today greater integration of the creative function with media planning.

One might say that this relationship between the media and the creative function is inherent in advertising or marketing communication. This is essentially because a creating advertisement is determined by market requirements and hence is result oriented. It is business related. The common objective of the business concerned and advertising is winning consumer confidence, and support. Media make this possible by relating the advertisement to the consumer.

For a very long time this vital function had been the neglected child of advertising and marketing. This had been despite the fact that the cost of planning an advertising campaign had been minuscule compared to the money spent on the media. At one stage the ratio was 10 per cent to 90 per cent. Today the creation of an advertising campaign costs any amount between Rs 10 lakh and Rs. 20 lakh, while the expenditure on the media would vary from Rs 2 crore to Rs 10 crore. The change in the ratio would seem to have gone more towards media costs than creative costs.

Today, the integral link between advertising research, creating advertising and media planning has become vital today because of the proliferation of the media, particularly the plethora of TV channels, and inter- and intra-media competition as also fierce competition between brands trying to capture a fast expanding market. These developments are making media planning a complex and difficult task, calling for a great deal of ingenuity, inventiveness, continuous monitoring of changes in consumer reactions to different media, analysis of utility of certain media and combining imagination with available data to ensure the most effective use of media in combination.

Let us start with trying to understand what the media is expected to do. What is the media objective in general? It is to ensure the widest and the most effective exposure of the advertising message in such a way as to help influence purchase and reduce wastage, thereby getting the best value for every rupee spent. The aim is to select the most effective media to reach the core target. The options are many, of course, related to the product or service and the target audience. Should you use a single medium to saturation level? Should you combine different media or opt for a media-mix? If so, what would be the distribution of the different media? Then you would come to each medium-print, TV, radio, video, outdoor, direct mail, point of purchase material, shop window display and so on. Starting with the print medium, you have to decide whether you would confine yourself only to daily newspapers or use magazines as well. Then more questions arise: Which newspapers? The general daily or the financial dailies and which of those? Similar questions would have to be answered with regard to magazines. Then you would have to decide how much space to use and how frequently the position of the advertisement on the page of the daily, even the particular page on which the advertisement would appear. These questions are no longer simple. The number of newspapers seems to be increasing every day. Then there are multiple issues of the same daily newspaper. There are special regular weekly features or supplements. You have to choose between English and other Indian language dailies, both nationally and regionally. With so many readership options and newspapers and magazines catering to so many different tastes and requirements, there is a tremendous fragmentation or segmentation of readership. General magazines, as distinct from those aimed at specific readership., contain a variety of articles. In positioning an advertisement one has to make a decision depending on the product or service and its core audience and the sections of the magazine that are likely to appeal to such an audience. It is a formidable task. Certainly with regard to the space to be used and even with frequency at times there has to be integration between the creative team and the media planner.

How serious this problem of media selection and planning is, becomes evident' when we discuss the proliferation of TV channels. The number of households owning television sets or TV households has gone up from 28 million in 1990 to 42 million in 1993. Out of the total TV households about 14 million own color television sets or are CTV households and three million have the facility of remote control or are remote control households. Both these segments of TV households are increasing. These different types of TV households have different viewing patterns. The remote control households, for instance, can very easily switch programmes and channels, at the slightest provocation. We are already beginning to see advertisements persuading people to buy a second TV set. This itself is evidence of increasing fragmentation or segmentation of TV viewers. With different programmes appealing to different members of the family there is segmentation within the household itself. The way channels are proliferating; there will soon be 35 different channels. The mid-sixties had witnessed the beginning of increasing segmentation of readership with the increasing 9iversification of magazines, accentuated by the emergency of economic and financial dailies followed by similar journals. This process had been triggered by the sudden invasion of consumer goods competition in this limited area leading to an orientation towards marketing and research. Liberalization has created a similar environment but on a much larger and wider scale and this is having its impact primarily on TV and also to some extent on magazines.

Available research data reveal some interesting developments. Between 1990 and 1993, proliferation of channels has increased hours of viewing by 60 per cent from an average of 8.2 hours per week to 13.2 hours among men in the monthly income group of Rs. 4,000 and over. In 1990 the entire viewing had been confined to Doordarshan. While total viewing hours have increased considerably, these have been distributed among seven channels, excluding local cable or video viewing, to about five hours a week on average (Lyn de-Souza, Media Director, Trikaya-Grey Advertising, Bombay, The Economic Times, 'Brand Equity', 5 January, 1994). Further, most households with access to multi-channel TV or multi-channel households are in the cities. The popularity of the different channels now available differ from region to region. Even within these differences viewing options vary. Thanks to multi-channel facilities the viewers are able to choose the programmes they want to see from among the many available at the same time. Hence, the selection of TV time has to take into consideration this complexity of audience exposure. It is no longer enough to consider the total viewer ship of TV. One has to identify the particular channel, the particular programme and time of viewing by the target audience. This problem will be aggravated as the number of channels increase. The total viewing hours per week will increase, but the share of each channel will vary according to its ability to offer fare that will be popular. Thus inter-channel competition will increase. This competition will possibly find the audience shifting loyalties from one channel to another at very frequent intervals. How does one keep track with this fluctuating audience when trying to reach them with an advertising message? The press is feeling the impact of TV. A study in Bombay reveals that between 1990 and 1993, while the total number of women readers in the Rs. 4,000 and above income-homes has gone up by 45,000, the number of regular readers has increased by only 15,000. The satellite TV has captured the rest.

In the environment of increasing competition the combination of different media has assumed greater importance than ever before. Direct mail, such as. Catalogues, leaflets, even audiotapes and videotapes, computer diskettes and telephone calls are becoming quite common. Even for consumer goods and consumer personal selling is backing durables multimedia advertising. Direct mail, which uses TV quiz or feedback postcards, not only communicates effectively with the target audience but also builds up a profile of potential consumers, people who have bothered to respond. This can be the beginning of a direct mail database, which has to be kept constantly updated. Outdoor advertising is also increasing in importance. Today one comes across even financial advertisements on hoardings.

These conventional media advertisers have been using a whole range of non-conventional media, including cinema and video vans, cycles with audio-systems advertising a product. Elephants have been used to carry draping with messages about family planning. In a small town, a couple of kilometers off the main road, during the pujas, I have seen young men dressed as circus clowns, sitting on the bonnet of a car, advertising the virtues of a particular brand of bindis with the help of a hand-held loud-speaker, backed by raucous film music on gramophone records from inside the car. This was before the days of the audiotape recorder and player. It is obvious that with the growth of literacy and the increasing affluence of a section of the peasantry, benefiting from the impending changes in cropping patterns and greater commercialization of agriculture and export orientation, the media, both print and electronic, would expand in the rural areas in the not too distant future. The consumers would have wider media options and the media planner would have more problems. This is particularly so because of the varying structural patterns of the emerging rural and urban markets. According to some estimates 80 per cent of the urban population are in the middle and upper income groups. This accounts for a population of 96 million. In the rural areas 62 per cent or 217 million are in the lower income group or at the subsistence level. About 135 million are in the middle and upper income groups. 'The value systems in the urban and rural areas are in a state of flux. Furthermore, one has taken into account the diversity of this vast land, with its different languages, cultures, habits and customs and even purchasing behavior patterns. The media have to be market to these diverse and fast changing market segments.

Then there is the question of rising costs. TV is the fastest growing and the most expensive medium. Sponsoring a Hindi feature film with a ten-second message can cost anything between Rs. 1,60,000 and Rs. 2,50,000, according to the popularity of the film. Advertising costs in the press and other media are also increasing. What is more, advertising on TV is increasing, causing a clutter of advertisements of different brands of the same product. How does one rise above the clutter? In this competition for attention on TV, the situation that has emerged is one of increasing expenditure and decreasing impact of advertisements and the media planners.

The use of the media has become very complex. In general what combination of media or media-mix do you go in for and in what proportion? In TV what is the combination of channels and mix of programmes? How to select a combination that gives the best value for money in reaching the target? In TV it is the question of a target specific programme with a highly fragmented and shifting viewer ship. How does one focus on markets of importance? The task is precise, and involves the adoption of a more strict but flexible media strategy. The problems faced can be identified as follows: managing the media explosion; matching media to consumer segments with increasing audience fragmentation and declining media loyalties; increasing competition among brands; cost inflation; inter-media competition; cost-effect media use avoiding wastage; focusing on core consumers and standing out in the clutter; increased audience; monitoring changes in readership and viewer ship patterns of the potential consumers; and managing both information and lack of it.

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