Whether you are out on the road, up in the air, on your first date, on your long treks or on your way to work – you can always be assured of the constant company of ‘The Brands’. In a world dominated by consumerism, the marketing gurus are watching your every move, have your travel plans figured out and have already reached your destination probably before you even thought of getting there. The Indian outdoor advertising industry, comprising less than 8 per cent of the total advertising budget has today become burgeoning industry worth Rs 1,900 crore, thus ensuring that the consumer is always thinking, albeit subconsciously, about his choice of brands – right from the toothpaste he uses in the morning, to the mattress he sleeps on at night.
The Indian outdoor industry has undergone cataclysmic changes in the recent years. Gone are the days when a plain old billboard was enough to make a consumer sit up and take note. In a scenario where thousands of brands are jostling for top of mind recall, the need of the hour is innovative, smart outdoor advertising.
The year 2011 was a period of ups and downs for the industry as a whole. An extended cricket season that caused majority of spends to be diverted to TVCs and decreased spends from the telecom and finance sector during the year caused a major setback to the industry mid-2011. However, the forecast for the industry looks bright as per PWC which has recently published a report stating that the Indian OOH advertising industry is projected to reach Rs 2,400 crore in 2015 from Rs 1,400 crore in 2010, showing a growth of 11.4 per cent.
As we speak of the potential of the industry as a whole, lets take a look at some of the key challenges and issues that have plagued the industry, a few trends that are definitive of how the industry has shaped up in the past year and the future direction that needs to be carved out to reach the complete potential in the coming years.
OOH - Not just a ‘reminder’
As the quickest, most cost effective method of grabbing consumer attention, the OOH industry has been steadily gaining significance as a key element of a media planning strategy that goes much beyond ‘just a reminder’. The tools and techniques of outdoor advertising have undergone cataclysmic changes. Gone are those days when ordinary billboards were used for outdoor displays. The OOH industry has given a lot to advertising brands in terms of ROI, strategic locations and innovations in the previous years which has led to increased spends especially from the finance sector into the outdoor segment.
Earlier in the year, I was fortunate to have been a part of the Outdoor Advertising Convention, based on the concept ‘Think Tomorrow, Today’. Among the many highlights of the event, there was a point made by Ashish Pherwani, Associate Director, Ernst & Young India Pvt Ltd, which made a profound impact on me as it will largely define the future of the outdoor industry. He had said, “70 per cent of advertisers are not, or are only somewhat comfortable, in buying OOH, and 68 per cent are willing to increase spends on OOH if they can get greater transparency.”
Increasingly more advertisers are demanding formats in segments with greater measurement metrics such as traffic count; dwell times, passenger engagement etc which are answers the industry will have to provide to scale up rapidly.
Urban saturation = rural potential
As OTS opportunities get slowly exhausted in the urban markets due to high budgets and market saturation, the smarter marketers are moving away from the city hubs and exploring the untapped and vast opportunities that lie in transit media advertising and rural OOH.
Taking an example of Maharashtra, of the 90 million residing in rural pockets, with 55 million in semi-rural or rural areas, only 40-45 per cent have access to Print & TV as mediums while the rest of the audience is subject to ‘media darkness’, that is, incapable of any media consumption due to barriers such as illiteracy and lack of TV and print. For this audience, the only effective way to make an impact is through the audio advertising medium, where messages can be relayed to them in their local languages, which they can comprehend. This model has met with tremendous success during the last couple of years with telecom brands opting for this medium to convey the brand messages to a significant part of their target audience, that is, the rural consumers.
Vritti i-Media has developed a proprietary technology whereby audio advertising messages are relayed to an audience at ST bus stands across Maharashtra along with bus arrival and departure timings which makes for mandatory listening and cost effective brand campaigning.
Highway advertising - Food malls become Digital Hubs
While signages, kiosks and samples have been tried and tested methods of branding at Highway Hubs, marketers are now moving towards a more dynamic form of advertising which is attractive, cost effective and easy to modify suited to the advertiser’s needs. A good example of this is the highway food hubs in Maharashtra, notably on the Mumbai-Pune and Pune-Nasik highways, which are dotted with food joints that have audio visual screens where advertisements are broadcast in between bus arrival and departure announcements thus ensuring the captive attention of the audience. The technology based audio visual screens allow advertisers to modify messages based on new product launches, change of schemes or to simply highlight an ongoing sale a little more effectively.
The audio visual method of outdoor advertising on food malls will pave the way for brands to communicate to a diverse set of audiences, in a multilingual format at half the cost, thus ensuring seamless delivery of messages that can be modified as and when required. It is also being touted as an effective way for brands to spread social awareness among their audience, especially the truckers, who are largely illiterate and who form a large part of the audience profile that frequent the roadside dhabas. It will be interesting to witness the shift in strategy of marketers from traditional to outdoor audio visual advertising, which will largely define how the future of this medium shapes up in the near future.
Digital OOH - An idea whose time has come
Offering benefits like flexibility to advertisers, higher recall and cost advantages, Digital OOH is an idea whose time has come. The medium facilitates audience measurement and monitoring of consumer preferences besides allowing category exclusivity which are all the aspects that the industry is looking to resolve at present. With high end luxury and automobile brands making entries into the Indian retail market, we can certainly hope to experience a lot of innovation on this medium in the coming years.
(Veerendra Jamdade is Chief Executive Officer at Vritti i-Media.)