OOH Interviews

M Kumar

GM - Brand Development | 09 Apr 2009

Digital OOH started off in the last one year or so. Though it expands the overall OOH market, it still remains to achieve critical mass. As a medium there is a possibility of interacting with the TG on real-time which needs to be exploited. In large formats we have been hearing a lot of opportunity with blue casting but we haven’t seen much happening on that front.

Born and bred in Mumbai, Kumar is a media professional with over 18 years of experience. Over these years he has seen the media landscape dramatically being altered. He started off his career with a five year stint with Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd and thereafter for three years with the erstwhile FM stations HMV & Radio Mid-day (remember those were early days of FM yet). He went on to work with FMCG major Pepsi - handling the enviable brand portfolio. Then came the opportunity to work with service driven Club Mahindra Holidays as Regional Marketing Head followed by a national responsibility at the corporate office in Chennai. Became head of marketing at a JV with a Tata group company in Pune before moving back to Mumbai as General Manager at Jagran Engage – a leading OOH player in the country. A keen theatre enthusiast and a “just-turned” fitness freak, Kumar is bullish on the OOH media space and shares his thoughts on key issues facing the business.

In conversation with Pallavi Goorha of exchange4media, Kumar talks about the economic slowdown and the technological advances that the medium is taking.

Q. How has the economic slowdown affected Jagran Engage? How do you view the OOH market in terms of the slowdown?

The economic slowdown has affected the whole media space and OOH as a medium is also affected. Jagran Engage, too, is no exception. The effect was stark post-November 2008 and continues even as we speak. However, if one saw a reduction in ad spends by close to 30-35 percent in the November to January period, you can notice an improvement (approx 15-20 percent now) in the last couple of months. Basically, if you were witnessing a large number of empty billboards earlier, the numbers have now declined. What is interesting is that some categories such as telecom, finance, insurance, government, education, airlines, media and entertainment companies, etc are still bullish on outdoors and continue to spend on the medium. Quite a few big campaigns that were to take off towards the start of Q4 in this financial year have been staggered towards the H1 of the next financial year, so it’s not as if the OOH spends won’t happen, just that it has been slightly deferred. Summer is upon us and we can hope to see FMCG companies using outdoors, so we will see some spends happening on that front too. From a client’s point of view, there couldn’t have been a better time – they are able to get cream sites, which were hitherto unaffordable, and media owners are falling over each other to bundle huge value deals. Also, accountability from media owners is on the rise. We at Jagran Engage believe that this market scenario is likely to continue for a little more time – maybe another 4-6 months before the trend is reversed.

Q. What is your view on advertising in radio cabs?

Radio cabs as an OOH option is quite an interesting one – one can engage with it while getting into it as well as after one gets into it. That said, advertisers are really not rushing into it and at best currently it will complement a campaign as an element. In our country we often can see vinyls peeled off on the cabs – so maintenance parameters have to be set and monitored from time to time. Also, the operators have to do quite a few things before it can be used to its optimum level – things like a LCD screen inside, touch points with customers, GPS etc.

Q. What are the new businesses that you have bagged in the past six months?

Despite a slowdown in the OOH space, we have been able to bag new campaigns in the last six months. These range across categories - few of which have been regional and some national. Castrol, DLF, Dettol, Usha Fans, Max New York, Pepsi, Morgan Stanley, Citi financial, UCO Bank etc.

Q. What are the technological advances that the medium is witnessing? How would you compare OOH ad spend vis-à-vis total ad spends done by brands/companies?

Digital OOH started in the last one year or so. Though it expands the overall OOH market, it still remains to achieve critical mass. As a medium there is a possibility of interacting with the TG on real-time which needs to be exploited. In large formats we have been hearing a lot of opportunity with blue casting but we haven’t seen much happening on that front. Once the basic issues with OOH (metrics, site evaluation tools etc) are taken care of, I guess we can move a notch up and seriously start using technology as an enhancer for the business.

Q. How do you compare the Indian outdoor advertising industry with the global market?

Globally the industry is pegged around $25 billion while the Indian outdoor advertising industry is around $0.4 billion. Clearly there is huge opportunity for growth once the effect of the economic slump wears off.

Q. How big is the outdoor advertising industry? What is the share of OOH in the total advertising industry?

Our guesstimate is around 1800-1900 Crore excluding retail. It’s share is 7 percent of the overall advertising pie.

Q. What are the new tools that Jagran Engage is focussing on?

The tools that we developed (creative evaluation, uploading the entire campaign with photographs online, our location optimiser) are all web based and were as a result of the need gap analysis that we undertook some time back. These were pretty basic in nature yet very useful and we believed that once this was taken care of we can then build on them. Our efforts in the last one year was therefore, focused on aggressively pitching these to prospects and clients alike. The result of this push is that now clients are using our tools pre campaign and post campaign. They have also been useful in offering tremendous transparency to them which was otherwise missing. We have been thinking on building interaction between the brand being advertised and the TG for a long time now and once we reach critical mass, we will soon look at that.

Q. How different is it working with clients directly and with agencies?

As a leading OOH company in India we have separate teams catering to business coming in from direct clients as well as agency. The skew until now was in favour of agency business but now a lot of focus has come in for direct clients as well. The principal difference lies in the fact that an agency is aware of our inventory and as and when required for the client procures it from us – the process is a largely a “pull driven” one whereas with a direct client we need to sell our media as well as media available with other owners to cover a city for a particular campaign – the process is a “push driven” one. A direct client is more open to using tools as compared to an agency. It is easier to suggest innovation to a direct client as compared to an agency. A healthy business mix augurs well for an organisation such as ours.

Q. What are your future plans of Jagran Engage?

As an organisation we are investing in tier II & III cities where consumption is likely to grow. As a media opportunity street furniture is a good proposition as the formats available are varied and can be customised as per the needs of a prospect. Another focus area in the tier II & III locations is the transit media like important Railway stations and intercity bus terminals. We are also embarking on a specialist agency model where we will undertake large campaigns for clients as per their market requirements. The underlying advantage of competitive costs on account of also being a media owner is a big bonus for us. Needless to say, all services associated for an effective campaign will be provided to clients.

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