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OOH Interviews

Pratap Bose

President | 09 Aug 2004

“The outdoor market in India is currently looking positive. There is an increase in bookings – more short-term than long-term, largely driven by media, entertainment, telecom and finance categories. There is more accountability for the rupee spent, and research and planning tools are gaining prominence. Out-of-Home is the fastest growing media segment in the country and has an average growth of 20 per cent annually.”

A chartered accountant by qualification, Pratap Bose considers his entry into advertising somewhat of an accident. He joined Ogilvy and Mather in 1993 and set up Ogilvy Landscapes, which today is a $30-million division, known not only for its profitability but also expertise. He pioneered the Outdoor AOR concept in India. In 2002, he took over as Country Manager, Ogilvy Live, and in 2003 created the retail and visual merchandising arm, Ogilvy Signscapes. In a conversation with Shubha Kumble of exchange4media, he shares his vision for Ogilvy Activation, his apprehensions about the post-telecom boom days and more. Excerpts:

Q. Could you please give us a backgrounder on Ogilvy Activation?

Over the years, Ogilvy has become the leader in the Out-of-Home (OOH) business areas through its divisions, Ogilvy Landscapes – the outdoor advertising division, Ogilvy Live – the event management division, Ogilvy Signscapes – the retail communication division, and Ogilvy Outreach – the rural marketing division. Though each division is a leader or pioneer in its own right, the decision to bring them together was prompted by the need for synergy in the OOH offering to clients.

Q. What are the main trends one sees in the outdoor industry today?

The outdoor market in India is currently looking positive. There is an increase in bookings – more short-term than long-term, largely driven by media, entertainment, telecom and finance categories. There is more accountability for the rupee spent, and research and planning tools are gaining prominence. Out-of-Home is the fastest growing media segment in the country and has an average growth of 20 per cent annually. OOH today contributes to 10 per cent of the adex. Investment on technology and innovation is also on the rise. Media owners are consolidating and specialists are playing a larger role. Signage, ambient media and point-of-sale visibility are gaining prominence.

Q. The outdoor ad industry today is mainly run by people who migrated from other sections of advertising. Will we soon see people specialising in this field? Is there a need for this?

This trend started a few years ago. Today, the market is filled with specialists who have gained expertise from experience or from study. Many management institutes have included segments on outdoors in their curriculum. I think specialised courses in OOH communication are very much in the offing and this will increase the intellectual property value within the industry.

Q. What initiatives has Ogilvy Activation taken to increase professionalism in the business?

At Ogilvy we have, right from the start, sought to bring a difference by filling the holes in the industry. At the beginning, when the market was uncontrolled, we brought with us accountability and trust that made us stand out. This trend has caught on with vendors and agencies alike believing in being accountable. More recently we have tried to bring in some semblance of organisation in the media by adding value to local regulatory bodies.

Q. Many claim that you get your clients on a platter. How many of your clients have you independently pitched for and how many are a carryover from the creative agency?

Obviously Ogilvy Activation is the one-stop-out-of-home-shop for all Ogilvy India clients, but it is a misconception that we get these businesses on a platter; clients are not compelled to stay with us just because we are part of the creative agency they use. They stay with us as a direct result of the service that we provide and of the relationship that we share with our clients. In any case Ogilvy businesses only constitute 35 per cent of our revenues, the remaining 65 per cent coming from non-Ogilvy businesses.

Q. Most people are very optimistic about the future of outdoor advertising. Do you share this optimism?

Yes and no. I think the upward trend is very good for the industry. The future is definitely bright!

What worries me though is the stranglehold the telecom industry has on us right now. I believe that the total telecom spend which includes service providers and handset manufactures account for almost 40 per cent of the outdoor spend currently. I don’t see this trend going on for eternity. My belief is that telecom spends will come down drastically by mid-2006. When that happens the outdoor business in India will see a downturn.

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