Thursday, April 5, 2012

TRAI is trying to regulate TV ads

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) feels that it is time to begin regulating ads on TV. The suggestions made by TRAI are:
  • Restricting ad time to 12 minutes per hour in case of free-to-air channels like Doordarshan, for pay channels it has suggested a limit of 6 minutes per hour.
  • It has suggested certain restrictions in case of sports events.
  • It wants to do away with part screen or window ads.
These and more suggestions have been made by TRAI in order to ensure that the viewers have a pleasant TV viewing experience; for more information on this please read TRAI says too many ads on TV, wantscurbs and TRAIreviews ad time policy for TV channels.  

 According to reports TV channels are not too happy with TRAI’s suggestions because it could bring about a fall in their ad revenues. I personally think it is high time some regulations are brought in from the authorities unless the channels decide to self-regulate. Looking at the matter from the advertiser’s point of view I wonder whether advertising becomes really more effective just by maximizing the frequency of ads, after a point viewer fatigue sets in – viewers simply get fed up and possibly the mind shuts out many of the ads. This is my observation; perhaps it matter can be researched.

Sports events
A viewer watches television primarily for the programme that is aired and he/she is quite comfortable with a certain number of ads which come with the programme, in fact many of the ads are made so well that they too have entertainment value and are enjoyed by viewers, viewers also watch ads for information. But there has to be some limit. Take for instance cricket, the huge number of ads do take the fun away from watching the game (I am not talking about just the current IPL matches). Every single gap is greedily plugged with ads so much so that one misses out on much of the action on the field, it is quite often that the gaps are is not even long enough to complete the ads which are squeezed in.

I recall the days when there were fewer ads and one could soak in the atmosphere of the game by watching a telecast; for example we actually saw what was happening on the field during the drinks break, in fact viewers still saw ads but the on-field kind. I recall a drinks break at a match (don’t remember the year) where I saw a drinks cart carrying a huge dummy bottle of a brand of soft drink, the bottle had a window from where the drinks were dispensed to players. There is another incident I recall; this was an on-field advertisement for Thums Up, it was in the early 1980s and Thums Up was relatively a new brand. During the drinks break one could see a man, back to camera, walking towards the players on the field, he was holding a tray which had a few Thums Up bottles and he had a large size towel hanging from his shoulder, the towel had a large picture of a Thums Up bottle facing the camera. This at that time I thought was truly innovative. I had the chance of talking about this with a marketing person from Parle’s, the then owners of Thums Up brand; the gentleman told me that it looked like a simple case of a man with a tray and a towel walking on the field, but it was not that simple, in fact a lot of effort went into making it happen so smoothly. Alas, if such things are happening today on the cricket field, I do not see them what I see instead is a bombardment of TV commercials.

Other programmes
I do not think it is a good idea to stretch a movie or any programme by having large number of frequent commercial breaks because the viewer, who could be the target customer, may just get fed up and switch off the TV set. For this reason I stopped watching movies on AXN, I simply do not have the time to sit through a 9 p.m. movie on AXN.

I always thought that having very long ad break was not a good idea for the advertiser because during a long ad break viewers also tend to take a break and stop watching TV temporarily, perhaps to make a quick phone call or to attend to some chore at home. If the breaks are short the audience is more captive. Another thing which TRAI would like to do is to see that the audio level of the ad is not higher than that of the programme, I am happy that they are trying to address this, high audio level of the ads is highly irritating and I do not think one should try to sell something by irritating the target customer/viewer. 

Let TRAI try, I hope they succeed.     

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