As with any other media, outdoor advertising requires a mechanism for accountability. That is to say, the advertiser should have some idea about the size as well as the quality of the audience in order to evaluate the effectiveness. Unfortunately, compared to the broadcast and print media, the research methodologies for the measurement of the audience to outdoor advertising have been intellectually unsatisfying and highly controversial. This is complicated by the fact that there are various kinds of outdoor media, some of which are substantially harder to measure than others.
No matter which country or research firm tackles the task of quantifying outdoor audience behaviour, the long-term goals are the same. First, the measurement must serve as a solid base for advertiser and agency decisions regarding media investment and placement. Next, it should provide a basis for checking delivery against media purchased and verify the media plans. Finally, it should be a surrogate to judge campaign effectiveness within the marketing mix by medium and vehicle. Overall, the measurement must provide a reliable currency and consequently a means to assess ROI for both the advertiser and the seller.
Says JC Giri, Country Head, Ogilvy Landscapes, “The whole area of accountability and measurability of the medium, at least in India, is in a state of flux. Firstly, there is a need for an initiative from the government’s side for regularisation and standardisation of media across cities and states. Currently, there are different sets of rules governing the industry across varied cities. Recognition and credibility to the outdoor medium vis-à-vis other mass media (television/print) is vital for the future of outdoor. In addition, there has to be constant re-investment by media owners towards upgrading new technology for the growth of the medium.”
Giri continues, “I personally feel that the industry ought to ‘self regulate’ itself. This would not only ease the system but also drive credibility to the medium and industry. In terms of combating key concerns, there have been some concrete steps taken by individual outdoor specialists and also there have been talks of taking positive steps as a group. It’s early to comment on where it’s all going, but there is definitely the intent behind the entire effort. Hopefully, it should lead us to the right direction.”
Meanwhile, Soumitra Bhattacharya, President, MOMS, asserts that the need of the hour is for a third party monitoring service. “Arbitrary regulation policies across different cities and states, has hindered the case for outdoors. Again, the inability of a unified association of media owners to represent their interests to the government has added to the scheme of things. What we need is a third party service and principles in place which would establish the credibility involved. Our need is to be perceived as an honest medium as currently, there is no data to evaluate or justify spends on outdoor. The inability to attract and retain good talented professionals weakens our case even further.”
Arminio Ribeiro, President, Portland India, says, “We need to build advertiser confidence in the medium by reassuring them that the medium is responsible and accountable, the application of research and over-all improvements in the way the medium looks is essential. There needs to be a greater degree of co-operation between the major players on the buying and selling side of the business if we are to see some evidence of this manifesting itself on the street.”
By offering barometers of media effectiveness, outdoor would stand to gain significantly higher growth rates than other media. This would be a result of improved accountability, the provision of weekly target audience reach, frequency and cost-per-thousand target audience. However, the audience measurement scene in outdoor in India appears to be a flux, as is evident from the above discussion. The challenges are a good many, and outdoor specialists are still working their way along them very consciously.
Giri sums up it saying, “Media owners should feel the need for re-investment, they need to feel the impulse for generating greater value for the medium and the industry. What’s important is that, you don’t wait for change and technology to evolve but take the first step and attempt at gaining advantage. This would not only bring on the gradation of the medium and the industry, but will also implicate an increase in the share of revenues and of the advertising pie.”
He adds: “India is yet to experience any technological advancements and use of creative and high impact out-of-the-home communication options, which have been working in countries like China and Korea. Various countries in the Asian region are using the medium a lot more effectively.”
In a country like India, outdoor largely works as a reminder or a supplementary medium. The most common reasons for this, is the paucity of audience data on the medium coupled with the fact that there is no comprehensive monitoring. To a certain extent, technology is trying to combat this issue. To a large extent, technology has addressed this issue. However, the efficiency of the medium remains by and large unknown. As per the industry experts, outdoor advertising contributes about seven per cent to the Rs 8,500-crore advertising industry in India.