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Hanneli Slabber

Country Head | 29 Apr 2013

Advertising is meant to provoke a response. If the ad is forgotten, it cannot possibly invoke a call to action. Hence, innovation is a key element to gain the attention of the audience. OOH is a medium where you have to be loud, bold and on your audience’s face to create a powerful impact on people. Creative agencies and brands need to explore innovative ways to communicate the brand and its USP in a meaningful and relevant manner.

Hanneli Slabber, Country Head for South African Tourism in India is at the helm of affairs, spearheading initiatives of the national tourism board in India. Prior to this role, Slabber was Global Product Head for the board and was based in South Africa.

Hanneli began her career in the hotel industry, before moving to sales and marketing. With experiences in both inbound and outbound companies, she was heading Contiki Holidays before moving to South African Tourism. As the Country Head for the national tourism board in India, Hanneli’s core responsibility is to effectively market the destination to Indian audiences and help further increase the growth of Indian arrivals to the country.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Nair, Slabber speaks at length about South African Tourism’s outdoor advertising strategy, her views on the Indian outdoor ecosystem and more...

Q. The OOH industry is labelled as an unstructured one. There are a number of reasons behind it. You come from the brand side, taking that into consideration, where does outdoor fit into your media plan?

OOH is extremely important for us because that is where our audience is. I don’t think the merit of having OOH has ever been under dispute, but yes, its effectiveness and measurability has been a topic of discussion for quite some time now. Even with all the pitfalls, outdoor advertising still stands out to be one of the important mediums to extend the reach of a particular campaign.

Being a tourism board, it is extremely essential for us to sell our travel stories through our campaigns, and OOH is a perfect medium to execute the same. It helps in building a positive imagery and recall for the brand. As the mainline media is getting more and more cluttered and fragmented, OOH is gaining importance as a critical medium to connect with the consumer and capture their attention. Every year, we invest comprehensively in our OOH campaign across markets in India and it will continue to be a key part of our media plan in the coming years.

Q. It is observed that South African Tourism over the last one year has extensively used outdoor in its media plan. The campaigns had a balance of innovation and planning. Could you elaborate on the reasons of choosing OOH so widely in your media plan?

We see OOH as an integral part of our media mix because it brings something big to the campaign that you cannot achieve by a lot of other mediums. It is perfect for creating awareness among consumers because of its widespread reach. There is constant presence of the brand across cities, which helps in making a direct impact on our target audience.

Also, the high frequency traffic in cities helps us reach out to the masses. In our OOH campaign in 2010, we promoted South Africa through wildlife, adventure and most importantly, FIFA, since it was one of the biggest events for our country that year and we wanted Indians to travel to SA for the same. In 2011, we launched our 21-city campaign, titled ‘Chalo South Africa’, where our outdoor campaign travelled to Tier II cities in India with the objective of reaching out to the masses, where family holidays and honeymoon getaways were a rage. In 2012, we launched our ‘Leave ordinary behind’ ad campaign, which reached out to people across 22 cities in India.

The OOH campaign captured the experience of adventure, nightlife, wildlife, luxury, wine route and beauty of South Africa. And this year, we have launched a new campaign in India, titled ‘The more you do, the closer you get’. Year-on-year our aim has been to deliver and showcase something new and special to Indian travellers so that they are attracted to travel to South Africa. It is increasingly proving out to be a platform which acts as a good reminder medium for reinforcing our creative communication to our audience.

With over 100 print publications and TV channels, the chances of an advertisement being missed is higher than ever. Outdoor advertising addresses that issue easily as a good outdoor campaign cannot be missed when people are on the streets. Corporates are increasingly accepting outdoor as an independent medium. The growth in the outdoor advertising industry confirms this trend.

Q. Do you think above innovation, ‘smart planning’ should be the ground rule while designing an outdoor campaign?

Advertising is meant to provoke a response. If the ad is forgotten, it cannot possibly invoke a call to action. Hence, innovation is a key element to gain the attention of the audience. OOH is a medium where you have to be loud, bold and on your audience’s face to create a powerful impact on people. Creative agencies and brands need to explore innovative ways to communicate the brand and its USP in a meaningful and relevant manner.

Moving forward, there has to be a revolution in outdoor creative. Creative is still mostly being adapted instead of being originated specifically for outdoor. Outdoor needs to come out more intelligently to ensure that people understand the message. Smart outdoor that recognises and reacts to consumer types is the call for the future. With increasing use of smartphones, OOH is becoming personal. Digital can make a huge difference in the OOH arena in the times to come. Over the last two to three years, a huge traction has been building up in this segment.

The definition of OOH is changing and is getting redefined. Today, OOH is becoming a strategic element of every company’s media mix because of its innovativeness and impact. In the next few years, smart planning and innovation, with the support of digital space, will be key to the OOH medium.

Q. What are the changes that you would want to see in the outdoor industry that will lead to retain brands’ trust towards this medium of communication?

OOH will need to get more organised, more innovative and less fragmented. This does not necessarily mean that we want consolidation in the industry, where all the outdoor is owned by five or six big companies, but the industry needs to decide on a set of regulations, values and standards that they hold their members too.

Once the industry is organised and speaks with one voice, it will address some of the issues with ‘outside’ suppliers, such as municipal bylaws, etc. It will give the industry as a whole more bargaining power. Information needs to be collected according to similar standards, and requirements need to be made to enable the industry to cross-use. Measurability is a major concern area that needs to be looked into. There should be guidelines for analysis.

Long term investment need to be undertaken in this sector. You will need trended data to ensure that you can cement OOH’s place firmly in the industry and with the same eminence as the other mediums. More innovation, more push-back on creative agencies to not just simply adjust the print creative to billboards, investigation and introduction of digital space and mobile medium needs to be undertaken in the future.

Q. What, according to you, are the must have elements of outdoor campaign?

The most essential skill is creativity; the art of being innovative and imaginative is the key to success. An attention grabbing campaign with strategic placement across markets leads to a successful campaign. There are instances wherein brands use the same creative for print as well as outdoor mediums, which at times can be the wrong thing to do. One needs to explore better, think innovatively and connect with technology.

The biggest question you have to ask is this: Is your OOH campaign present, non-intrusive and non-interruptive of people’s daily lives or is it adding to their lives without interrupting it? We have too much clutter on OOH at the moment, so getting that direct touch with the consumer on OOH is the ultimate element that you would want. I feel technology will soon become an important element that will stand out to become a great partner in outdoor.

Q. The outdoor industry doesn’t have a common currency as a marketer. How much does this worry you?

It worries me a lot, but it should worry the industry more. OOH comes into a pitch with no proper measurement, no quality guarantee, no research, no case studies done over long terms with recollections. OOH negotiates from an uneven footing from the start, and unless they address some of the issues concerning ROI, the divide is just going to get bigger.

Q. As a marketer what, according to you are, the key learnings that the Indian outdoor industry should imbibe by looking at the global outdoor landscape?

The OOH space needs to be more organised to give you that one voice to deal with logistical issues - from owners to bylaws. There is no limit to innovation, so brands should continue to think different and execute something unique and impactful. And most importantly, be serious and come into a pitch with the same arsenal as other mediums do – that, is, measure and invest.

Q. How much percentage of your marketing spends is allocated to OOH?

We don’t reveal our marketing budget details, but it would be fair to say that a big chunk of our budget is spent on OOH every year.

Q. Could you highlight on the most effective OOH campaigns that you have rolled out recently?

We launched a 21-city outdoor advertising campaign in India this January. The campaign, ‘The More You Do, The Closer You Get’, highlighted the diversity of experiences offered by South Africa to Indian travellers and assured them of a holiday filled with unforgettable memories, activities and opportunities to grow closer to fellow travellers, be it your family, friends, colleagues or spouse. This campaign was undertaken across 426 out-of-home units in India through billboards, bus shelters, gantry, cantilever, unipole, translites, wall graphics, glow cubes, glass facades, buses, mobile van kiosks, utility poles, pillars and scrollers over a period of one month.

We also added some element of innovation to the campaign by depicting various exciting activities on the billboards, such as a dummy bungee jump from a billboard and the majestic moves of an African lion on another hoarding. Through this campaign, we showcased the varied experiences that not only brings the people travelling on a trip closer to each other, but also helps in strengthening their bond further.

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