I am no expert in OOH matters to begin with. Simply because there is so much happening that one cannot keep track of it all. However, what one can expect is to perhaps pontificate a little bit on what has been happening in the year gone by and where will this lead to in 2012, if at all.
Firstly, I think the industry is still driven very largely by perceptions rather than capabilities. Most of these are based on past experience and facts that were once there but may not exist any more and, these relate to all aspects of the business.
This trend, I think, will continue to be there even in 2012 and capabilities will only begin to play a role when clients and agencies alike (more the former) are convinced that OOH is more of a strategic media option and not just a tick mark in a media plan. And the onus of doing this, I think, lies squarely on the shoulders of the media agencies.
Secondly, the business of OOH is still largely commodity driven. And, it will continue to be so till such time that people find ways to bring in some degree of accountability within the environment. And, this is not the domain of only the OOH agencies such as ours. It needs a mammoth effort on behalf of agencies, clients and media owners. I am not very optimistic that any of the three want to do this as yet, even though we may all subscribe to the general idea of accountability.
Last, but not the least, the dearth of talent in this industry will continue to plague its growth and quality. I do not see many people wanting to make OOH a career option and we are stuck with what we have. The reasons for this are not very far away. The skill set required for becoming proficient in OOH are not really that many! Therefore, it has no real attraction for the young of today, unless you got nothing else.
But all of this can change. Perceptions can be changed.
By investing in the medium, we could develop some consumer studies, some traffic counts and some site census that can serve as standards for the industry, aka TAM or even the IRS. The MRUC initiative on this is good, but is coming along at a rather slow pace. One way of doing this is a simple one. Today, OOH is perhaps one medium that is not so prone to fragmentation. And that by itself is one of the biggest strengths of the medium, which one rarely talks about.
Simple things such as the ones I mentioned above are bound to garner a lot more interest in the medium and move it from the status of a commodity to a much more useful option in the media choices that brands make.
Talent should then also be able to find its way here. Regular training sessions on how OOH works and can be used more effectively to reach out to consumers will also come a long way in changing the way the young see the medium.
Why fix it if it ain’t broke. And, that is a belief I hope the industry does not have in 2012. For in my mind, there is a lot that needs to be fixed.
(Rajul Kulshreshtha is Managing Director, Kinetic.)