Outdoor advertising is al set to discard the "below the line" label its been wearing till date. With innovation being the new buzzword, hoardings across the country are proving to be the next big thing.
According to Willis D'monte, Country Head of outdoor advertising agency Serve & Volley, it was a combination of diminishing effectiveness of other mediums and the increasing opportunities that hoardings offered that has seen a boom in the outdoor business. A quick look at the industry figures confirms this. While the outdoor business had been a mere Rs. 250 crores in 2000, the next three years saw it growing to a whopping Rs. 1250 crores.
"Outdoors have moved from being a narrow cast medium to a broad cast one," D'monte said. According to him with newspapers holding a reader's attention for a highly limited period of time on one hand and the channel surfing habits of the new age television watcher on the other, outdoors offer the best opportunity to hold a consumer's attention on a continuous basis.
The outdoor advertising industry is highly fragmented with close to 2000 father-son establishments running the show across the country. D'monte believes that the entry of a number of agencies like Serve & Volley and O&M into the sector will bring with them a certain level of professionalism. "Our rates are standardized so there is a great amount of clarity in the business," he said.
Along with this, he feels that as professional agencies are involved with the complete outdoor planning and buying, they offer their expertise on the basis of a brand and its target audience. "Each brand has a unique image that it projects and this image needs to be carefully built using a certain class of hoardings," he adds. Serve & Volley offers these services to a number of clients including Britannia, HSBC, Proline and Bombay Dyeing.
With the medium being increasingly accepted, the relationship between mainstream agencies and outdoor firms has also warmed. "Yes, the creative agencies can no longer play Big Brother. Though the creative is developed by them, on a number of occasions we offer critical suggestions owing to our expertise in this field," says D'monte.
The way forward, according to D'monte, lies in innovation. According to him, vinyl, neon and cutouts are passé and in the next big thing is the use of progressive vinyl and fiber optics. However he admits, "Not many brands are ready to try these innovative ideas as these things don't come cheap. After all innovation comes at a price".
While corporation rules have started addressing issues like over lapping and hoarding sizes, a lot more of attention is required to professionalise this medium. As for Serve & Volley, bright days seem to lie ahead. Headquartered out of Bangalore, the agency, in which ace tennis player Mahesh Bhupati holds a stake, has an office in the four metros. While the company's present turnover is Rs. 18 crores, D'monte is confident that in the next three years this figure can be raised to Rs. 75 crores.