Back in September 2001, Madison Communications soft launched its specialist outdoor media planning and buying division with a share capital of around Rs 1 crore. Since then, MOMS has come a long way. It now deals with prestigious clients such as HBO, Nokia, Asian Paints, ESPN, Kinetic, Radio Mirchi, Titan, Tanishq, Skoda, Aviva and Max New York Life, offers employment to a good many people, and has offices in the cities of Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. In 2002, Sam Balsara, Chairman, Madison had predicted revenues amounting to Rs 100 crore within a space of three years. With the outdoor advertising market amounting to a limited figure of 400-500 crore (industry figures) and strong competitors like Ogilvy’s outdoor unit and HTA’s Portland playing the field, how has the going been for MOMS?
Says Soumitra Bhattacharya, President, MOMS, “In an unorganized and fragmented outdoor industry, specialist independent agencies or divisions of agencies are the only meaningful enterprise who organize the chaotic environment and offer accountability to the clients’ campaign spends. In that context, when the objective of most of the specialists is the same, there is hardly any competition. We all are contemporaries. Also with the size of the industry being almost Rs 900 crore and the specialists accounting for less than 50%, there is ample scope to co-exist and grow and plenty of space for more players to enter.”
He adds, “Having said this, it must also be said that the year gone by has been very good for MOMS. We have exceeded our targets. But there is so much more to be done. We believe that we have and shall continue to serve our clients interests and of the industry by aggressively leading and participating in positive, growth related objectives. The guiding light for MOMS (vis-à-vis other specialists) is the business oriented approach to client spends. We make sure that every rupee spent on the OOH medium should earn the client many times over in sales, image etc. Having a young team, focused outdoor strategic planning, a great relationship with the suppliers (who are more like partners in the business) and better buys has certainly helped us in the cause.”
Innovation is the key to a healthy outdoor industry. How has MOMS championed the cause? Bhattacharya asserts, “Well, with a client like Real Good Chicken (during the launch), we put a backlit box in the shape of the product on a front-lit hoarding at Mahim Causeway in Mumbai. To enhance the visual effect, the product pack had a neon outline, which spelt out the message to perfection. Again with a client like Zee TV, when the channel launched Sanjay Khan’s Mahabharat, MOMS devised a first of its kind venture by combining real and unreal elements. A stage was erected against the backdrop of a huge illuminated hoarding with actors standing on it, dressed up as key characters. What ensued was a traffic stopping event.”
He adds, “With the Kotak bank launch in Chennai, apart from conventional OOH vehicles, we used a band of young people on motorcycles, dressed in brand colours, holding placards in order to get the attention of the passersby. With Radio Mirchi’s launch, we tried something similar and used a couple of young volunteers (dressed in brand colours yet again), standing in buckets of water and holding banners that said ‘It’s Hot’.”
How has MOMS strategy differed from client to client? Bhattacharya replies, “Well, I could cite two instances for you. For each of the HBO blockbusters, the strategy was to concentrate only on a single, high-traffic up-market area for short duration. We zeroed down on places like Siddhivinayak for The Matrix, Marine drive for Mission Impossible 2, Patel Bridge for The Mummy, etc. This aided in catching maximum eyeballs of a quality crowd and since it was for a short period (10 days instead of the traditional 30 days), it made optimum use of budgets.”
He goes on, “Another instance is of Aviva Life Insurance. When the brand wanted to make a splash in Mumbai, we went for a painting campaign on random sites. Every vacant site was utilized for the purpose and we reached a novel agreement with the suppliers whereby they were free to put up other clients’ vinyl atop the Aviva painted display after Aviva’s campaign period but without defacing the Aviva display.” He grins, “The highlight was that - if the site was not rented out to another advertiser, they would pull down the vinyl to reveal the Aviva creative underneath. Hence the campaign made a re-appearance every now and then, although no extra penny was spent.”
What lies ahead for the outdoor industry in India? Bhattacharya believes, “As the consumer’s disposable income grows, his lifestyle would improve. One of the byproducts of this rationale is that people would spend more time in transit (on roads in traffic, at airports etc.) and hence the importance of outdoor advertising is bound to increase. Newer media vehicles will emerge to target consumers. This will also encourage bigger and more eye-catching innovations. 2004 would be a promising year for outdoor.”
With specialists walking the extra mile when it comes to delivery, research, innovations and strategy, road signage in India is all set to get a lot more interesting. In the near future, clients will have a lot more options and the process of evolution would gradually pave way for competition. However, as per MOMS, in the current day, most specialists exist as contemporaries, rather than competitors!