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Willis D’monte

Country Head | 21 Jun 2004

"Joining the Maini Group at the age of 19, Willis D’monte stayed with the company for the next eight years. Starting as a Client Service Engineer, he climbed to the level of Assistant Manager, Marketing. During this tenure, he also added an MBA degree from INGOU to his kitty. Joining Serve & Volley in 2002 as a Business Development Manager, he bagged some of the most prestigious accounts in the industry including Britannia on a national basis and TVS across a number of states. D’monte was promoted to the post of Media Manager and, was recently conferred with the responsibility of the Country Head. Speaking to Shubha Kumble, at the agency’s Bangalore head office, D’monte shares his views on the growing outdoor industry, the need for constant innovations and more."

Q. Could you please give us a background on Serve & Volley?

Serve & Volley – the organisation has basically two companies. One – S&V Advertising, which owns hardware in Bangalore and the other is an agency, Serve & Volley Advertising, Pvt Ltd. We have Nitesh Shetty as Managing Director and Mahesh Bhupati as one of our directors. S&V is a separate entity altogether, though it is a part of the group. We, as the agency, have branch offices in four metros across the country. At present we are a Rs 18-crore company – which might seem a little small compared to an O&M. But then again, O&M gets its outdoor accounts on a platter as the clients for whom they handle the creative most often than not also extend their relationship to the outdoors. We, on the other hand, pitch for our clients as an exclusive outdoor agency with expertise only in this area.

Q. Tell us about your major clients.

Presently we are handling around 8-10 national clients like Britannia, HSBC, Proline, Bombay Dyeing, Globosport, etc. We are also pitching for some major clients. O&M is No 1 in this industry and we are coming very close to them.

Q. How has the outdoor industry grown over the years?

Well, I must say that outdoor is picking up very fast. It is steadily growing from a narrow cast medium to a broad cast one. Earlier, this medium was not recognised, but all this is changing today. This is mainly due to the recall value of outdoors being much higher. At the end of the day, when you read a newspaper and see an ad, you look at it for that minute and then it is thrown away. Same is the case with TV. Today you have around 40 channels. Every time an ad comes up, people choose to change channels. But outdoors is always there. Whether you are headed for work, to shop, to socialise – every time you step out, you are exposed to hoardings. So, here is an ad that’s on 24×7 – maybe for an entire month and has a higher impact.

Q. So the interaction between the creative agency and the outdoor firm has certainly increased?

Yes, very much. They (creative agencies) are also beginning to recognise outdoor agencies today. Earlier, they had the big-brother attitude, but now this difference is slowly closing. We are the professionals in outdoors and we know our business. So, if they want better ideas and better creatives, they have to get in touch with us. The same creative may look good on paper but not on a hoarding. Similarly, the same creative may look good on a hoarding but not on a bus shelter. That’s how outdoor agencies have been involved in the planning process.

Q. How different are the outdoor needs of different brands?

Any particular brand needs a particular class of hoardings. This is important as the image of the brand is to a great extent built by the class maintained. For example, when TVS Centra was to be launched, TVS wanted to take bus stand panels and buses. But we, on our part were not too keen about the idea. The main argument was that TVS had an image in the market and we didn’t want to spoil it. The problem with bus panels is that half the times the vinyl is torn and has paan on it. When the brand has a certain image, it’s important to maintain and build it further.

Q. How has the industry grown in the recent past?

I think it has grown phenomenally. In 2000, it was valued at Rs 250 crore and in 2003, this number has jumped to Rs 1,250 crore.

Q. What do you think are some of the main issues that need to be addressed in the outdoor industry?

Well, outdoors is mainly owned by father-son businesses and it’s been very disorganised. The business is passed on from generation to generation and the guy handling it, often doesn’t know about the medium. He is only interested in the money part. As a result, the price is decided by how desperately he needs the money. So, a hoarding that is actually worth Rs 45,000 can be made to go for Rs 75,000. Agencies like Serve & Volley and O&M who have entered this segment are trying to bring in professionalism to the outdoor industry. We benchmark rates on hoardings. So, if a client takes a hoarding in January and another takes the same hoarding in December, the rates will be the same.

Another issue is the regulations that govern outdoors. Today, even if I decide to buy out MG Rd, I’ll have another guy come and put up a billboard somewhere in the area. Sure, some kind of regulation has started to be enforced with regard to size and overlapping, but the area is still very disorganised.

Q. How do you see the future of outdoors forming?

The way ahead is great. There is a lot to happen here. If you see international outdoors, we are way behind in India and therefore, there’s a lot to look forward to in terms of innovation. The conventional billboard cannot be worked on more than making it a uni-pole structure, but a lot of innovation can be applied to execute the ad.

Q. What goals have you set for yourself for the coming years?

We have been growing at 100% since the past few years and at this rate we expect to touch at least Rs 75-crore mark in the next three-four years.

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