Number Games – BEST TV Advertising

Among business newspapers in India, Business Standard is good and is constantly improving; Mint is new but very good too. Both have an online presence [B-S Mint] and do not have irritating pop-up ads. The B-S site is not password protected (Mint is) which makes it an ideal solution for linking to. I wouldn’t want my readers to be subjected to the advertising irritants that an Eco Times creates.

Here is my first link to B-S. An article in today’s B-S reports that BEST buses in Mumbai have installed TVs in their buses which will show ads. The idea is clever but not novel. It has been tried but has met with resistance in the US where fares are not (or less) subsidized. Bus Radio is a similar project that does radio advertising in school buses. In India where the fares have to be kept very low to remain affordable, this could be an interesting way to help keep the fares down.

The BEST advertising project is new. A company called Emnet installs and maintains the TV screens. Along with the TV screens they install security cameras. In addition they pay a fee of Rs. 1 crore per year to BEST. Emnet then sells the advertising. Even though it is Emnet, a private party, that is selling the ads not BEST, the B-S reporter has portrayed the advertising rates as if it was a sell-out.

Here is their math


The advertisers need to shell out just Rs 9,300 for one 10-second advertising slot in all the 3,100 buses that will soon be fitted with television screens. The cost per commercial per bus becomes a paltry Rs 3 (which is lower than the minimum fee of Rs 4 on BEST). To put this in context, a 10-second slot on a popular TV programme would cost between Rs 75,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh.


This makes it look like the comparison is between Rs. 3 and Rs. 1.5 lakhs. Or maybe between Rs. 9,300 and Rs. 1.5 laksh. The conclusion one is invited to draw is that either BEST or Emnet is doing this for charity.

But as my discerning readers will realize, the only comparison that is fair is – how many people see the ad and what does it cost per viewer. Lets assume that there are 100 people in the bus that have a clear view of one of the TVs. The cost per ad per person who has the opportunity to see the ad is Rs. 0.03. That number for TV will be calculated similarly based upon the viewership of the program. For a program that charges Rs. 1.5 lakh per 10 second ad will need a viewership of just 5 million people to get down to 0.03 per ad per viewer. A quick search on KBC viewership yielded a number of 61 million (although the figure is dated, we are interested here in order of magnitude only).

To me the comparison seems equitable. Obviously there are many differences between the two mediums, including the interesting dynamic that more people on the bus doesn’t necessarily mean more people can see the TV. Standing passengers can reduce that number!

Business is always logical, especially in a free market. Sometimes you don’t know all the details, sometimes you can’t comprehend it fully. But if you look for the logic hard enough, you will find it.


  1. krishna says:

    I go the Bus TVs will eventually become the darlings for Advertisers. The passengers don’t have a remote and no content to break the streaming ads 🙂


  2. Shefaly says:

    The data protection laws of the land play a key part in how these ads are perceived and whether or not they plague someone’s journey, and consequently get or do not get exposure. Some London taxis have these cab-adverts but the customer can ask for them to be switched off, and the driver has to comply.

    Given the state of non-existence of permission marketing in India, it should be interesting to watch these ads.


  3. Siddharth says:

    placing a plasma screen at the rear of the bus could have been an added advantage. open advertising. traffic jams would become more entertaining as well!


  4. krishna says:


    Did you mean “Privacy” in place of “Data” in Data Protection Laws you referred ?

    Or am I missing something ?


  5. Shefaly says:


    I meant data protection. In the UK, the term governs several aspects including the consumer’s direct marketing preferences. A marketer must have explicit permission (not just opt-out) before subjecting a consumer to direct marketing messages. Purists might argue advertising is not direct marketing; but in the ‘captive audience’ context of a cab or a bus, it approximates to direct marketing and as such individuals can invoke their rights under data protection and at least in London and Edinburgh cabs (Cabtivate, the name of the narrowcasting firm says it all!), can ask for the pictures to be switched off.

    Privacy would come into the picture if the driver was surreptitiously or otherwise collecting data about your journey and passing it to the marketer. I think that while not impossible is a step too far in sophistication in narrowcasting.

    Although Siddath has a point re entertainment, I think the risks could be under-estimated. After all urban legend has it that the ‘Hello Boys’ hoardings contributed significantly to traffic jams and crashed when they were first unveiled…


  6. Subhash says:

    Wow man.


  7. krishna says:

    Thanks Shefali….Funny that semantic distortion (“data protection” meaning “explicit permission for direct marketing”) happens in UK, that is supposed to be where English is born.

    In India, telcos provide a “Do-not-call” registry. Much less complex.


  8. Shefaly says:


    The data protection act provides for how personal data about an individual is held and processed. Just as commercial entities, which can benefit from customer data, have duties, the consumers have rights. These rights include not receiving direct marketing as one of the possible ways data can be used by profit-making entities.

    So it is not semantic distortion, but yes, it is shorthand of sorts to the extent that data protection rules provide a coherent set of principles that govern consumer data. You can read about the consumer’s rights here:

    And yes, I have heard about the do-not-call registry. A journalist friend of mine blogs about it and I have experienced just how ‘effective’ (not, to borrow from Borat) it is in practice. It may be much less complex, but I do not think anybody gives a monkey’s about it, since enforcement of the law and the enforcement of punitive measures for breaking the law are both weak.



  9. Vivek says:

    Interesting feedback here 🙂
    This would be an ideal target for local Advertising if the Advertisers can target by Bus-Route and Day-part.


  10. Arup says:

    BTW, Mint is very good and I agree — but its no longer password protected … they will start in Bangalore also in November so I am looking fwd to that one.


  11. Princess says:

    It's both a win-win situation for both parties, I think. The bus passengers will benefit by being entertained throughout their trips and at the same time advertisers earn money.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s