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Vasant Jante

Publisher | 16 May 2005

“Outdoor advertising is growing and will continue to grow over the next few years. But given a more concerted effort from everybody in the industry, the medium can really come into its own.”

Vasant Jante, Publisher, Outdoor Today, launched his entrepreneurial career 1994, after dabbling with marketing in publishing, retail advertising and merchandising. He began his foray into publishing when he launched POP Today, India’s first magazine on point-of-purchase advertising, in December 2000. In April 2002, he launched Outdoor Today.

Since then, he has extended the franchise of his publication brands into industry events by launching POP Asia and OAC in 2005. He is also the office bearer of POPAI India (the Indian Chapter of POPAI International).

In conversation with Priyadarshini Nandy of exchange4media, Vasant Jante shares his views on outdoor advertising.

Q. What is your opinion on the outdoor advertising scenario in India vis-à-vis global scenario?

According to Zenith Optimedia, the global advertising expenditure in 2004 was approximately $371 billion, out of which out-of-home accounted for just 5.3 per cent, which would put it at around $ 19 billion. But if we look at similar figures only for Western Europe -- the most developed outdoor market in the world -- then out-of-home would account for around 10 per cent of the ad spend in those markets.

In comparison, according to a Pitch – Madison Advertising Outlook 2005, the Indian outdoor industry was worth Rs 800 crore in 2004. It had grown by 10 per cent over 2003 and accounted for around 8 per cent of the total ad spends in the country. So, even though outdoor advertising as a percentage of ad spends and in terms of year-on-growth seems healthy, we must understand that we are talking about a very small base here. But thanks to big outdoor spenders like the telecom, financial services and the entertainment industry, all indicators are still quite encouraging.

Q. What current trends have you noticed in the industry?

One significant trend has been the introduction of electronic media like LED or Magink. These have, however, not built up the critical mass required to lower costs for advertisers. The investments here are extremely high and therefore it will take some time before it becomes market efficient.

But even with conventional outdoor, I see a lot of brands going that extra mile to break through the clutter and create an impact. Also, brands and media owners are thinking of more than just conventional options.

Q. What percentage do you think outdoor advertising occupies in the media plan of a company?

The industry figure for outdoor advertising as part of a media plan is around 8 per cent.

Q. How much outdoor advertising contributes to brand recognition, recollection and ROI?

Outdoor advertising has long been considered a reminder medium and has therefore, been treated as the ‘left-over budget medium.’ But in today’s environment I believe that outdoor has a more definitive role to play in conjunction with other medium. There was a study conducted in the UK to analyse the role that outdoors could play vis-à-vis popular medium TV. The findings of the study indicated that the market that used both media scored the highest in all parameters.

Q. What are the problems faced by the agencies that have incorporated outdoor advertising in their functions?

Before the advent of specialist agencies, the problem that brands faced was the extremely fragmented market. They had to deal with multiple vendors for different regions. Specialists offered the convenience of a single-window. Accountability was an issue and specialists again took on the onus of providing that. In a market where there was a dearth of any data, it was very difficult for brands to actually plan or measure any campaign against any scientific parameter. And it did help that specialists came with their proprietary tools and techniques to do that.

Q. What was the purpose behind the launch of Outdoor Today? What does the magazine hope to achieve?

The primary objective of Outdoor Today was to provide a platform for the industry. As the outdoor industry is constantly evolving, there is a need for the industry to have access to trends, technologies and opinions from Indian and across the globe.

Q. Tell us something about the Outdoor Advertising Convention. What does it hope to achieve?

OAC is a logical extension to fulfilling the objectives of Outdoor Today. A live forum like Outdoor Advertising affords much more scope for interaction and exchange of ideas. Therefore, Outdoor Today’s role will always be to keep the industry updated on a regular basis, while the OAC will enable the industry to get together once a year and interact, network and chart plans for growth.

Q. The Outdoor Advertising Convention is going to be rounded off with an awards ceremony. Why do you think it took so long to start something like this?

One trend I see is that brands, agencies and media owners are constantly looking at innovations to break through the clutter. I think the industry is at a stage where it deserves its own awards event, rather than being a subset of an event with a broader scope.

Q. How different is the conceptualisation of outdoor advertising from print or television advertising?

For long, the practice has been to adapt commercials from print or TV to fit into the outdoor format, which is not the most effective way of maximising returns from outdoor advertising. The creative requirements for an outdoor campaign are unique. In fact, the general rule is that the copy should not exceed seven words and the entire concept of an outdoor campaign should be able to be absorbed in less than seven seconds. This is not really a constraint for other media.

Q. Can you name two outdoor advertising campaigns, which you think are excellent?

In the Indian context, I think Amul has been extremely successful in creating a long lasting campaign that people actually look forward to seeing. The launch of Hutch is also a good example of using outdoor advertising to best effect. Internationally, the campaign for the Economist in the UK has been one of the most successful campaigns of all time.

Q. Where do you see outdoor advertising headed in the next few years?

Outdoor advertising is growing and will continue to grow over the next few years. But given a more concerted effort from everybody in the industry, the medium can really come into its own.

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