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OOH Interviews

Sanjeev Hajela

President | 10 Apr 2007

“There has been a significant shift in consumers’ lifestyles, the explosion in mobility and suburban growth. This has led to the entire OOH media assuming a far greater importance. View this in the context of severe media fragmentation and the extremely short attention span of consumers, and you will appreciate how integrated OOH is becoming brand strategic in nature.”

The out-of-home space is the new buzzword for almost all brands nowadays. Sanjeev Hajela, President, Primesite, predicts that OOH has great possibilities of development and growth in India. Primesite is Mudra Group’s specialist offering in OOH communications.

Hajela has 18 years’ experience in marketing. He started his career with the tobacco division of ITC in 1988, where he was managing sales and distribution in the Western UP markets. After three years, he was entrusted with Trade Marketing responsibilities, which he fulfilled till June 1995. He has also worked with Brown Forman Beverages Worldwide and LG Plastika at senior positions.

Hajela joined Primesite as Chief Manager in 2001. The immediate team grew from six to 35 when he took the responsibility for National Sales and Servicing in 2005. He helped add new dimensions and width to Primesite’s portfolio. In this interview with Jagadeesh Krishnamurthy of exchange4media, Hajela shares his views on changes in the OOH space, the new entrants, as well as Primesite’s forthcoming plans. Excerpts:

Q. You have been promoted recently as President. How has your role changed in Primesite?

I have been with Primesite for over five years and my role has evolved from a regional responsibility as GM-North India to a national one as all-India Sales Head, and finally to a Profit Centre Head of one of the largest strategic business units of the Mudra Group. In that sense, it has been a terrific journey, where the organisation and I have grown together and have hugely benefited from this growth.

When I assumed my current responsibility, there were three priorities set to me by our CEO, Lakshminarayanan: to build a strong and deep talent pool; to strengthen our key client relationships through proactive and significant value addition; and to ensure that the requisite processes are put in place to ensure smooth and sturdy scalability. In the last one year, Lakshminarayanan and I have made remarkable progress and 2006-07 has been the best ever for Primesite.

Q. Kindly throw some light on the major changes taking place in the outdoor space.

There has been a significant shift in consumers’ lifestyles, the explosion in mobility and suburban growth. This has led to the entire OOH media assuming a far greater importance. View this in the context of severe media fragmentation and the extremely short attention span of consumers, and you will appreciate how integrated OOH is becoming brand strategic in nature.

Marketers are seeking solutions beyond traditional billboards and it is becoming critical to integrate this with retail signage and visual merchandising for maximum impact.

With larger share of overall media budgets, OOH is becoming centralised and is being driven by brand strategy to a far greater extent compared to the previous years, where it was decentralised and pretty much left to sales and distribution.

Media owning is looking attractive and there is likely to be significant consolidation in this space.

The government, which controls large real estate, has realised its revenue possibility and will invite long-term partnerships with reputed parties. We see a lot of this in the infrastructure space, for example.

Greater use of technology, a holistic approach across OOH, traditional media -- television, print and radio, and new media -- Internet and mobile -- will also become significant.

Q. What is the current size of the OOH industry and how is it growing?

At present, the industry is estimated at Rs 1,200-1,500 crore. It is projected to grow at a rate of 10-15 per cent.

Q. Kindly share some details of the innovations done by Primesite.

Our approach to innovations has been at multiple levels. We believe that OOH deserves customised creatives and we always offer our clients proactive creative solutions, particularly because most traditional agencies do not understand this and offer weak creatives, which are modified versions of their print campaigns.

We believe there are significant innovations possible in site and location selections that are customised to the target audience for the campaign. This can also lead to significant cost efficiencies. We often innovate with the physical design of outdoor such that it does not become a blind spot, but rather stands out in the surrounding environment. Wherever relevant and appropriate, we are one of the first agencies in this country to experiment with technology-enabled OOH.

Q. Is there a state-wise media plan from Primesite?

Not just state-wise, our plans operate at the town level too. Each town has its unique topography and in-depth knowledge is critical in ensuring maximum ROI for the clients.

Q. Share your views on the recent entrants in this space.

Typically, there are two categories of recent entrants — international and domestic. In our view, it is not going to be easy to succeed in the Indian market unless one has a serious and long-term approach to this space. Any attempt at short-term profiteering will prove disastrous. It is critical to understand the local requirements of Indian clients and the Indian operations of MNCs. Unlike television, print and radio, one cannot execute a national campaign in OOH without strong infrastructure and all-India footprints.

While we regard all competition with respect, our strategy revolves around better quality of talent; superior solutions through customised creatives and innovations; integrated approach through outdoor, retail and visual merchandising; proactive client servicing; complete transparency; and nimbler response time.

Q. There have been numerous talks on the need for tracking for OOH. What is your take on this?

We have our own proprietary tracking system using our national infrastructure. We set campaign objectives well in advance with our clients and invariably do a campaign evaluations study to ensure that the money is well spent.

There have been sporadic attempts for an industry-wide survey — indeed Primesite was one of the early drivers of this. However, it needs a more serious approach from existing players to make this a reality.

Q. What can we expect from Primesite in the coming months?

A lot of exciting developments are taking place in Primesite. We are on a strong growth trajectory and we will share with you exciting developments in new client acquisitions, new service offerings and possible global tie-ups.

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