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OOH Interviews

Robin Carruthers

Managing Director | 05 Jun 2013

In almost every developed market research plays an important role. However, in India, unfortunately we have still a little way to go before we have a common currency. The sheer diversity of our geographical spread and the dynamics of the industry make it extremely difficult to have one. I don’t think this is going to be feasible or a plausible action. However, a simple matrix for evaluation of a campaign could work to at least inform a client of its effectiveness.

Prior to Mediascope Publicitas - OOH, Robin Carruthers was Chief Executive Officer, Square Circle Media Outdoors and also served as Chief Executive Officer of out of home company Clear Channel Communications, which he joined in 2005 as National Sales Head. He had earlier worked with Grey Worldwide (formerly Trikaya Grey) and various other outdoor agencies such as Primesite, MOMS, OAP and RMG David. Publicitas - OOH has been present in India for more than 10 years through Mediascope Publicitas - OOH. The company has been offering media services to its clients in India in terms of buying media space for them in specialised publications abroad.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Nair, Carruthers highlights the changing outdoor advertising landscape in India, lack of a common currency in the OOH industry and more...

Q. How has the Indian outdoor environment changed over the last five years?

The Indian outdoor environment continues to see steady growth and continues to be a media vertical that is growing when most other established forms of media communication are struggling to maintain revenues in an already very competitive and fragmented market. According to industry reports, the outdoor media is poised to grow at a 14 per cent CAGR year on year for the next five years. If we compare this to an international average of an 8 per cent CAGR growth, it augurs well for our industry in India.

Q. OOH is going beyond being a recall medium to a compulsive element of every media plan. What is your take on this recognition?

Today, outdoor media plays a lead role in almost every media plan and has graduated from being a reminder or recall media format to, in many cases, a lead media format. Outdoor media today is increasingly being used to increase the incremental reach of media campaigns due to their extreme localisation and high penetration levels. With the expansion of road networks, cities and towns are now being connected and the world is literally becoming a smaller place. Outdoor media plays a huge role in connecting the audiences on a common visual media platform across this ever increasing network.

Q. What are the factors that you keep in mind while planning an OOH campaign?

The main factor that goes into planning an outdoor campaign for us at Mediascope Publicitas - OOH is audience engagement. We continuously strive to find solutions on how best we can engage and connect with the audience in an already cluttered media atmosphere. We believe that until we don’t engage the audience, the campaign is lost. Besides audience engagement, points of convergence and interaction are the key points that we look at while planning our outdoor campaigns.

Q. How do you think billboards in India can be made more sophisticated?

India already has some of the most impressive billboards that we see across the world. However, I feel that we must start applying the theory of less is more as this will create demand and help in upping the revenues. I also feel that some amount of logical governance will go a long way in helping the industry regularise. I must also add that in India, we have some of the best structures, which are comparable to the best international standards. We at Mediascope Publicitas - OOH have created probably India’s largest billboards outside Bangalore airport, each measuring 100x100 feet.

Q. What do you think needs to be done to propel the Indian OOH industry forward?

The Indian outdoor industry has been around for a long time and is probably one of the mature industries. We must, however, learn to govern ourselves as an industry, get support from local governments, comply with regulations (Regulations should, however, be set within reasonable and logical frameworks), introduce best practices that work for our industry. This has to be a slow and logical process and well thought through. Too many times our industry has had kneejerk reactions to situations that have actually caused a backward step.

Q. The OOH industry lacks a common currency. How does this worry you?

In almost every developed market research plays an important role. However, in India, unfortunately we have still a little way to go before we have a common currency. The sheer diversity of our geographical spread and the dynamics of the industry make it extremely difficult to have one. I don’t think this is going to be feasible or a plausible action. However, a simple matrix for evaluation of a campaign could work to at least inform a client of its effectiveness.

Outdoor is a larger-than-life canvas, it is an in-your-face media and what you see is what you get. I don’t think it requires rocket science to actually justify or expand on what you see. Everyone knows the importance of audience connect at an airport, and the sheer size of a 100x100 feet billboard cannot be missed. How much research do you think would go in justifying this? We need to keep it simple and show the client that it works for him and engages his audience.

I think an important point to note here is that today, one of the largest spending categories on outdoor is print and television, with radio using it in short bursts. Doesn’t this tell us something? These are media formats that are backed by research but still use OOH to connect with their audiences.

Q. Could you elaborate on few outdoor campaigns executed by Publicitas?

Today, MSP works with some of India’s finest corporate houses as well as a few international clients. HDFC’s NRI outdoor campaigns are executed by us in the Middle East; iGate works through us in the US markets.

Q. How was 2012 for Publicitas?

2012 was a good year for us with a trajectory that offered growth and it continues. We have ventured into the media ownership business and have created some of the most sought after assets across India. We continue to grow our business.

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