Why brands advertised cautiously on coverage around late Sushant Singh Rajput on news channels

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October 7, 2020 9:57 AM

According to data, despite witnessing a 20% increase in viewership, English channels saw a drop in adex following Sushant Singh Rajput’s death coverage

This is not the first time in India when brands are being called out for aligning with noxious content on TV.This is not the first time in India when brands are being called out for aligning with noxious content on TV.

Even as advertisements have returned to TV, brands are now more cautious than ever as far as its association with content is concerned lest they attract consumer’s ire. The suicide of late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput and related media coverage of the same is an example of how brands refused to be associated with venomous content. Data from TV audience measurement company, Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) revealed that in August, English news channels posted a 20% growth in viewership during primetime that is between 8 pm to 11 pm. (The main coverage three out of four week was of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death). However, the viewership did not translate into advertising revenue as data from TAM show that English news genre registered a two-three percentage point drop in advertising volume in the same period when compared to June (prior to his death). “No longer are brands indifferent to the issues plaguing the society but are rather throwing their support behind the societal issues. We are now beginning to see evidence in the Indian media and advertising landscape where issues of brand safety are becoming more and more prominent,” Paritosh Joshi, principal – Provocateur Advisor, said.

According to industry analysts the drop in volume of advertising is largely due one-two reasons –firstly brands have reduced ad spends besides a few categories have stopped advertising. Also, with brands being image conscious, it is being picky about the kind content it would like to associate with. Analysts claim that this has been an international trend. In June, #BlackLivesMatter broke out across the world in support of the African-American community in the US. While many brands including Disney, Unilever, adidas, Apple, among others, showed solidarity with the cause on the digital platforms, brands also pulled out their advertising from foreign news channels spurring hate. For instance, NY Times reported in July that big brands such as Walt Disney Company and Sandals chose to “flee” the ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ show despite high viewership. “Brands seem to go on the backfoot when it comes to controversy. When brands find a certain content controversial, they tend to pull back their advertising money,” Harish Bijoor, brand expert, said.

This is not the first time in India when brands are being called out for aligning with noxious content on TV. In August, Amul faced a lot of flak for advertising on Sudarshan TV, a Hindi news channel which posted a 45-second long promo of their programme Bindas Bol, claiming that a particular community is gradually taking over the prestigious civil services of India and labelled it as ‘ÚPSC jihad’. Similarly, in April, automobile company Renault was called out on Twitter for advertising on Republic Bharat which was accused of fueling anti-muslim sentiment at the time. Subsequently, according to media reports, Renault stopped advertising on the platform at the time.

However, some industry experts believe that while advertisers should stand for a cause, there is a chance that it might lead to something more toxic in the future. “While today the expectation from brands may be to pull their advertising off news channels that may seem toxic, it won’t be long before activists will expect brands to pick sides on ongoing political and social debates, and this can have no end. Also what constitutes toxicity in a news channel is quite subjective,” Lloyd Mathias, angel investor and business strategist, elaborated.

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