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Sagnik Ghosh

Vice President – Marketing | 20 May 2013

Unless you are passionate about this medium or want to know about this medium, you will not learn. There are not enough data points or studies to show what works and what does not. There is lack of syndicated research and common measurements that you can get for some of the other mediums. But at the same point, I am optimistic about this medium.

Sagnik Ghosh had joined Axis Bank in 2011 as Vice President & Head - Brand & Strategy. He was promoted to Vice President, Marketing in April 2013. Prior to Axis Bank, he was with Grey Worldwide as Senior Brand Strategy Planning Director. Before that he was Senior Brand Planning Director at TBWA\India. Ghosh’s earlier assignments include stints with Shinsei Corporate Advisory India, HSBC Asset Management India, Franklin Templeton Investments, and Zee Interactive Learning Systems.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Nair, Ghosh speaks at length about his opinion about the Indian outdoor advertising, his expectations from the industry and much more...

Q. The OOH industry is labelled as unstructured. Please share your opinion. Where does outdoor fit in your media plans?

I agree, the OOH industry is unstructured. Unless you are passionate about this medium or want to know about this medium, you will not learn. There are not enough data points or studies to show what works and what does not. There is lack of syndicated research and common measurements that you can get for some of the other mediums. But at the same point, I am optimistic about this medium. Some companies are working towards creating a common currency.

This medium is only witnessing its second wave of growth, where companies have already learnt how it helps build awareness and are now toying with innovations. The future, that is, the third wave, however, looks very different. With information on audience, footfall, etc., marketers can ‘contextualise’ messaging. There is immense possibility in ‘micro-segmenting’ the markets and sending out messaging accordingly and thereby, create engagement. We are seeing some of these happen in more developed markets.

Not many marketers indulge in the rigor. There are anecdotal examples as well, I know of a company (and there could be multiple) which believes it has a good OOH plan if it covers the area where the CEO of the company stays or the route via which he/ she comes to work. I think marketers need to go beyond and get their hands dirty.

For me, OOH (and I am not limiting it to billboards) is an integral part of our media plan. Be it billboards or using our branches for certain opportunities or creating engagement ideas for urban and rural India, OOH forms an integral part of what we do.

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

Again, I agree. One message that fits all is just not going to cut ice. Depending on the brands’ requirement, there could be a need for year-long engagement and visibility or visibility in bits and spurts aligned with the marketing calendar. That apart, there are some other challenges too. My vision for this medium is beyond some ‘big-innovations’ or ‘rapid awareness building’. It is really about creating ‘micro-markets’ and creating messaging accordingly that works.

Simple messaging - but contextualised in a manner that generates interest - for that micro-market, is going to be the ground rule. Definitely thinking beyond the top eight metros will be a key task.

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?

First and foremost is the need for a common currency. Which figures should I look at? Where is the TAM of OOH? Secondly, some benchmarking. What should be the pricing for each site? Yes, rate cards. That’s what I am alluding to. I am aware that some companies are working hard to create these benchmarks. But these are not open-source. We may or may not be working with that agency, then how can we access the information? How can we look at?

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

Yes, it does worry. This industry runs on belief/ trust/ relationships. You will work with people you know. People, who you believe, will bend backwards for your brands’ requirement. But what if there is a breach of trust? What if your agency starts working with a competitor because your budgets are not high? How can you approach someone else and be confident that the prices quoted to you are right, or for that matter, is the plan is optimised?

Q. What are the five elements that you would want to see incorporated in an outdoor campaign that you roll out for your brand?

I would like to point out one thing here. Many of us view our OOH partners as ‘implementation agencies’. This thinking needs to change. I know of some brands where marketers have re-looked at the relationships and made the OOH partner as a strategic partner. These brands have benefited from that. I definitely think that all partners should be brought on board as quickly as possible, and as a marketer you should engage your agencies in giving the strategic challenge for the brand. Once the briefing is right, even OOH agencies can add a lot of value in creating value for the campaign.

Therefore, for me, my top five checklists would be (beyond common currencies and benchmarking):

  • How well do you integrate your OOH partner into your brand thought and the strategic challenge? Do they feel ownership for this project? Or do they think of themselves as only 'implementation partners' of this initiative?
  • How can you go beyond plain vanilla buying? Are you thinking beyond 'top eight metros'? Is the plan value for money?
  • What is the ‘big idea’? Does it flow seamlessly into OOH? If not, which elements should you carry forward and which elements you should not? Have you thought of that - or are you merely adapting?
  • Is the plan right for your TG? What is the customer’s purchase pathway? Does your OOH plan address that?
  • Is there a possibility of creating a ‘micro-market’ and ‘relevant messaging’? If yes, try it - Now!

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