The OOH industry in India is worth approximately Rs 1,200 crore and growing at 17 per cent CAGR. The industry is expected to be 10 per cent of the total ad spend by 2010. At that point, the industry is expected to be valued at Rs 2,000 crore. With the Indian Outdoor Advertising Association (IOAA) coming into being in 2007, all seemed to be going the industry’s way both in terms of IOAA having their say in the statutory department and standardisation of the OOH media in India. But with the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) issuing a new set of guidelines for the Mumbai OOH industry, the ‘Heartland of Mumbai Roadside’ came under the scanner.
exchange4media speaks with some major OOH players to get the reaction of the Mumbai OOH industry on the new policy guidelines and seeks suggestions to make the industry more competitive.
Stressing on the need for standardization, Kalpesh T Vohra, Director, Creation Publicity Pvt Ltd, said, “Dividing Mumbai into different zones is a discriminatory move. A more uniform approach across Mumbai is the need of the hour.” He was also against banning neon signs in residential localities and buildings, saying “Neon signs have long been the charm of Mumbai during night time, banning them would result in a great loss to the industry.”
On a 30-degree deviation on all billboard sites, Vohra said, “It is totally illogical because when we see billboards across the world, we see them facing the road. According to me, this clause is totally redundant.”
Giving his suggestion, Vohra said, “Mumbai is the main commercial hub, and without neon signs it will be dead. A 40’x20’ billboard size is standard and should be kept constant throughout Mumbai. Apart from that, the new distance between the hoardings obstructing each other (which is kept at 20 meters) is not proper and will again give rise to disputes and loss to housing societies and litigations.”
Tej Kohli, General Manager-Media Acquisition, Laqshya Outdoors (a division of Laqshya Media Pvt Ltd), said, “We fully understand that rules that were probably adequate a decade ago, need certain modifications and changes with time. The need of the hour for the overall benefit of Mumbai, is an urgent need for new Government / municipal policies to come into force. We would also like to add that although Laqshya is in favour of regulation and standardisation of outdoor media assets, we firmly believe that any regulation or standardisation should be in uniformity, scrupulously unbiased and fair to the citizens of the city, the authorities and to all the OOH media owners and the industry per se.”
Welcoming the new guidelines, Yogesh Lakhani, Director, Bright Outdoor Media Pvt Ltd, said, “I feel that the oldest advertising industry hasn’t got the right dues. By that I mean that when we, the media owners, have been abiding by the law and have earned for the BMC revenues of nearly Rs 60 crore per annum, why are our billboards tagged as illegal and a nuisance to the society? I strongly feel that billboards as a medium have always been a source of information and a means of employment to billions of people around the world, and Mumbai is no different. I further request the BMC to be in sync with the media owners so that in future the amendments to the new guidelines / bylaws could lead to both beautification of the city and uniformity of the OOH mediums.”
Indrajit Sen, Country Head & CEO, Stroeer OOH Media, India waits for a ‘True to Spirit’ implementation of the policy, when he says, “Stroeer always supports regulations and their compliance – both voluntary and forced – without which no business can operate in a responsible manner. However, the regulation should be well researched as well as implemented in its true spirit.”
Vijay Cavale, CEO, Infinity Media, has his doubts over the implementation of the policy and raises the need for an industry standard when he says, “It is still early to comment as I feel that much of the guidelines would be re-looked at before implementation due to various mitigating circumstances and a committee would be formed soon to look into the issues concerned. However, what is clear is that BMC has reacted with a sharp sting following the Bombay High Court finding that BMC had acted in a lackadaisical way with reference to illegal hoardings.”
“The problem is that BMC instead of looking at existing illegal hoardings and trying to rectify the same, has now tried to formulate new guidelines, which would then attempt to redefine what is legal or within guidelines and what would be deemed illegal or contravening guidelines. So, if one were to go by the new guidelines, then 40 per cent of existing outdoors in Mumbai would fall under the ‘illegal / not as per new guidelines’ ruling,” Cavale added.
He further said that as of now ‘outdoor’ did not have an industry standard, either as per Central Government or state government law (except perhaps in Hyderabad) “Hence, no single body can claim to have monopoly over what will constitute good / clean / aesthetic outdoor and what is not as per guidelines. In my opinion, were the guidelines to be strictly implemented then we would see a lot of smaller concessionaires, larger concessionaires, mom and pop concessionaires obtaining court stays on these new guidelines from the same High Court that showed its dissatisfaction with the BMC. And the High Court in many cases might well have no option but to grant court stays as a lot of the guidelines seem impractical / lack substantiation and would not hold up in many courts of law,” he added.
Agreeing with Cavale on the implementation part, Anil Kanambille, Director, Accord Advertising, said, “The new guidelines look a little more relaxed, but are still harsh. It is a little ambiguous and leaving it to the authorities to decide on bigger sizes in suburbs depending on the space available. This will open up more room for disorders and preferences for some.”
For Ajaz Memon, Director, Network Media Solutions, “The guidelines are definitely a big step towards streamlining the Mumbai OOH landscape. But is it for better or for worse is a moot question. While some of the provisions are welcome, there are still some approvals left to discretion, for example, Page 8 of the new guideline says approval of a 40’x40’ on 90' wide road ‘Will depend upon the volume of space available at the spot’. Who will decide whether volume is available or not? Why leave something to a subjective evaluation? Either it is allowed or it is not allowed. The whole idea behind the guideline is to make things black and white, so why the grey areas?”
He concluded by saying, “With the courts again pulling up the BMC for not implementing existing rules, the BMC has the tough task ahead of maintaining credibility and sticking to implementation of its own promulgated guidelines.”