Rajan Mehta, Co-founder and CEO of LiveMedia believes captive audience advertising, that is, digital signages at locations such as malls, coffee shops, theatres, etc., hold a unique potential. Calling it ‘outdoor TV”, he believes that with great content and viewer interactions, they can be a viable mode of OOH marketing for brands. LiveMedia’s network currently spans 2,900 locations through 6,000 screens spread over 80 cities and towns. As a member of the advisory board of exchange4media’s fourth OOH Conference & Awards, Mehta brings a unique perspective to OOH marketing. Excerpts from our conversation with him...
The captive audience advertising segment doesn’t seem to have too many dedicated players. Why is this so?
There are a handful of organised players and some others who do a bit of it. It has worked really well for us. However, the captive audience network is not growing as much as it could. One reason is obviously financial. Many of the companies that entered this segment burnt through their money very quickly. This is a Capex heavy industry, requiring a high degree of investment.
What is the potential of this segment?
There is tremendous amount of potential in captive media. This is because slowly but steadily all media is becoming digital. With more awareness, the segment is bound to grow. In the West, digital OOH is already mainstream. As the technology improves, it will also become cheaper and, hence, more viable.
Which are the prime locations that this form of advertising has the most impact?
We currently have locations in corporate offices, BPOs, corporate buildings, pubs, coffee houses, hospitals, educational institutes, restaurants, diagnostic centres, salons, gyms, etc. Our value proposition is that we will be present wherever people sit down. It does not make sense for us to be in a railway station, because people are in too much of a hurry to pay any attention to an ad, but inside train compartments? We can think about that.
From a content perspective, how do you ensure the client gets maximum eyeballs?
We run it like a channel, with a lot of non-advertising content. So, it’s not just ads, ads and ads, since that will become boring for the viewer too. In this, we follow the ACA (Ad Content Ad) model. We have created engaging content such as horoscopes, trivia, sports facts, fashion news, etc. [Other creative properties built by LiveMedia include ‘Graffiti Life’ (wise cracks), ‘Kitty & Witty’ (poor jokes rendered with animation), ‘This Is India’ (satire on our daily lives), and so on.]
We want to keep improving the quality of our content and make it more interactive for the viewer. For example, for one of our content properties, ‘Make My Word’, we provide the viewer the option to send in the answer through the mobile phone and see it displayed on the panel. The content is also short; around 30-40 seconds long.
How do you differentiate your value proposition from traditional OOH advertising?
OOH advertising is mainly tactical or a brand will carry it out to create impact during a launch. Captive audience networks work on a different principle. What we communicate to clients is that they can look at us as an outdoor TV. If a brand is running a TV campaign, it might show its ad on nine different channels, but the TG will not always be home watching television. This is especially true in the case of people with jobs. But even they might step into a, say, coffee shop during the course of the day.
So, do advertisers treat you like an outdoor TV channel?
Well, audio is a challenge in our media, but advertisers do show interest in having their TVCs air through our channel. Usually, when the ad is not audio intensive, it’s not a problem, but in case there is audio, then we have to soften it.
What are the main challenges in this segment?
The two main challenges are measurement and monitoring. Measurement is anyway a challenge in the entire outdoor advertising sector. But, at least, as compared to traditional OOH, there is a certain extent of measurement available. In terms of monitoring, we do have teams that go to all these locations to see how the properties are functioning. However, it is still not to the extent that clients expect and this could do with some improvement. Another thing with outdoor advertising as a category I feel is that it needs to evangelise itself. The agencies need to come together and have a common voice.
Many OOH agencies still believe that ambient media or captive media is restrictive as compared to traditional OOH. Comment.
When television came in, not everybody got on to it. Similarly, when the internet came in, not everybody was connected. Whenever a new industry starts, there is always a scepticism that accompanies it; this is quite natural. Speaking of ourselves, we have been growing at about 25-30 per cent YoY, so brands must be seeing some value in what we do.
What about digital signages on the street? Digital OOH is something many people have been talking about.
There needs to be the right value proposition. With digital OOH on the street, there are many considerations. There are power and technology issues. The creatives need to be sharp. All these things need to be worked out first.
What are the innovations that you are working on in your own segment?
The scope for engagement will increase. We might look at larger screens. 3D screens are another option, though the technology for that still needs to evolve so that it becomes feasible.
In terms of location, what are the new avenues that can be explored? In some countries, screens are installed in taxi cabs to run ads. Could something like this be seen in India?
It is definitely an option, but the radio taxi market in India needs to grow more for this to happen. Some other options that we could look at are digital screens in airplane seats. We already do some advertisements in airport coaches and we are also exploring the possibility of advertising in airport terminals. Then there are the maps found in malls; most of them are getting digitised. That is another option available.
(The exchange4media Group is all set to return with the fourth edition of its annual property – OOH Conference and Awards. The event will be held in Gurgaon on March 20, 2014. The Awards will recognise and reward exceptional work in OOH advertising and digital signage. For more details visit http://www.exchange4media.com/ooh2014/register.aspx )