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OOH Interviews

M Sundararajan

CMO, HCL Corporation | 05 Jul 2013

The outdoor advertising viewing audience is mostly mobile. People travel swiftly in vehicles or walk at a brisk pace while they perform the activities of daily life. Mobility limits the potential viewing time of an outdoor advertising message to only a few seconds. Because of limited time exposure, outdoor advertising design requires a disciplined and succinct creative approach.

M Sundararajan heads the brand building activities of HCL across the enterprise and closely works with various educational forays of the Foundation. He has around 22 years’ experience in various roles in technology marketing, advertising and strategy planning. He has been with HCL since 2005 and prior to that, has led the advertising department in technology companies such as Microsoft and Hexaware Technologies. He has also worked for many years in Communication Strategy Planning at J Walter Thompson.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Nair, Sundararajan speaks at length about the Indian outdoor industry, smart planning for an effective outdoor campaign, HCL’s OOH advertising strategy and more...

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

Today, all large media groups have their dedicated OOH vertical, which is quite strong and structured. We at HCL work with the OOH arm of our media agency Lodestar. Outdoor media helps break through the clutter by demanding the attention of a captive audience. Consistent and repeated exposure to an outdoor advertising message over an extended period of time will maintain high levels of advertising awareness and recall. Outdoor plays an important part in our media plan for brand HCL, and we have long association with outdoor sites that we have strategically selected across India. However, there is no standard reporting tools on outdoor, and so the RoI is difficult to quantify, which is why it remains unstructured.

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

The outdoor advertising viewing audience is mostly mobile. People travel swiftly in vehicles or walk at a brisk pace while they perform the activities of daily life. Mobility limits the potential viewing time of an outdoor advertising message to only a few seconds. Because of limited time exposure, outdoor advertising design requires a disciplined and succinct creative approach. Thus, I do think innovative ‘smart planning’ should be the ground rule while designing an outdoor campaign.

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?

The key is setting a standard measurement approach. The other things would be better rendition and technology, which allow clearer exposure and creative innovation. In addition, measurement, technology, and creative elements allowing for customer interaction are needed.

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

In India, the estimated size of the out of home (OOH) industry was Rs 15 billion in 2008, which is projected to become almost twice this size in 2013 (that is, around Rs 25 billion). Yes, the outdoor industry doesn’t have a common currency that is an area of concern, however, with more and more big agencies taking a serious interest in outdoor media, I am sure in years to come we will have a more streamlined process.

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

Six Words: A person will have, on an average, six seconds to read your billboard as they drive by. To ensure someone has sufficient time to read your billboard as they fly by at speeds exceeding 60 mph – write less.

Keep It Subtle: It is important that your billboard is noticed. However, do not overdo it. You want people to read your billboard while still being focused on driving. Do not be responsible for accidents because of how much attention your billboard attracts.

Plant The Seed: It is important that your billboard elicits a response. You want the consumer to contact you or your business because of your advertising. However, do not put phone numbers, e-mails, or any other means of contact on your billboard, expecting immediate response.

More is Better: Buy as many billboards as you can. Chances are, a consumer will not remember your product after viewing your company on only one billboard. The chances of consumers seeing and actually recognising your billboard increase with each new billboard you put up. The more billboards you have placed all over town, the higher the chance you will have to reach more of the market.

Long association with same outdoor sites for a better recall value versus frequent change in the sites of billboards.

HCL has been following these key tenets as much as possible. We have a small set of sites, which we have maintained for over seven years, and we try to keep our message short, clear and impactful.

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