Nabendu Bhattacharya, MD & founder of Milestone Brandcom, leverages an experience of 20 years under his belt, his company - Milestone Brandcom won the much coveted top spot last year at the exchange4media’s OOH Advertising Awards. As part of the advisory panel for the fourth edition of the Conference and Awards, he touches on topics ranging from digital OOH to partnering with clients for more creative advertisements. Here are some edited excerpts.
How do you see the OOH industry shaping up in 2014?
There are two sides to this story. This year you have the FIFA World Cup coming up, and then there is also the IPL. This is where a marketer will want to have visibility. The upcoming elections will probably contribute to 15 per cent to the OOH revenue. Typically, political parties look at working directly with media owners in most of the cases and also, many of the corporates cannot engage themselves with political displays. Putting all these things together I would say that maybe Rs 100 crore would be spent at the national level; at the regional level it would be much more.
What will be the impact of new, upcoming infrastructure projects?
The Infrastructure in the country is improving; we can take the example of the new T2 terminal at Mumbai airport. Once an airport is privatized, it gives more opportunities for technological development of OOH properties and what this does is attract international properties. International brands give a lot of preference to mediums that resemble the look and feel of international properties. These kinds of brands will be more interested in it if it resembles, say, Heathrow airport or Singapore airport. I will really want to concentrate more in areas where new infrastructure projects are coming up.
Right now what is down is sentiment, once that improves things will be much better, not only for OOH but for everything.
What are your thoughts on the digitisation of OOH?
It does exist in controlled environments. In terms of street or road media, there are issues since authorities believe it is distracting. I do not know when or how soon this will become permissible. We have multiple authorities and all of them have their own way of working. It is a complex situation, it will take time. I don’t see it happening any time soon but it can only happen when there is consolidation; when 15,000 media owners will become 50.
You spoke about consolidation, which is termed a very important thing in the OOH industry. There have been steps attempted in this respect. What do you think needs to be done?
India is a very complex country. There is no one big national player. It looks difficult when there are a few large players. Consolidation might happen at state or regional level but not beyond. According to me it could only happen if a large, international player comes to the country. Consolidation is a matter of time, but how soon is anybody’s guess.
Do you think that the lack of a single currency influences an advertiser’s opinion of whether to invest in OOH?
To a large extent, advertisers, especially multinational clients and media planners want to know whether the money spent adds to their overall GRP or TBR. Internationally, media owners take the step towards measurement. They come back to the association which makes it possible for the entire industry. In India, MRUC made an effort with two cities but ultimately it fell short of investments. This challenge is going to remain. There are efforts being made but I can’t see a lot of progress being made. So, every agency, including us, builds its own tools. Clients have their own mechanisms; so nobody is shooting in the dark. It is just that there is no standardized measurement. As soon as all the stakeholders take some step towards this it will be better for the industry. The client also needs to make a push. All these things have to come together.
What is the role that OOH plays in the marketing mix?
Anything you do should create something to talk about. The primary purpose of OOH is building awareness. Today, people are hardly at home. Eventually if you are spending more time out of home (our study suggests that urban India spends nine hours out of home), then that is a big opportunity for us. With technological progress, there are so many things that can be done but even without it, OOH is a medium to create awareness and it is a reminder medium, which is the oldest form of outdoor medium. This is the problem that all other mediums are facing today; the recall value. There is too much clutter in the other mediums.
Do you think it makes sense for brand to actually come to OOH agencies to create outdoor campaigns?
Most of the time, we are actually pushing creative agencies. According to us, most of the creative agencies do a cut-paste job. We are challenging this status quo and even the client is realizing this. Many large national and international brands have been using our strength on the creative side.