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Guest column: 8 common misconceptions about outdoor advertising: Alok Gupta, Director, Graphisads

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Guest column: 8 common misconceptions about outdoor advertising: Alok Gupta, Director, Graphisads

Those in the realm of advertising, very well know the potential of Outdoor Advertising. It is one of the most rewarding media, serving the purpose of advertisers since long. Many advertising campaigns built around Outdoor media have become case studies. However, the medium is plagued by a few misconceptions, which refuse to die. These misconceptions thrive due to lack of proper information and discourage the advertisers in taking an appropriate decision.

So, what are these misconceptions?

Outdoor media is very expensive: Most ill-informed have a mindset that outdoor media is expensive and does not offer value for money. Whereas on the contrary, outdoor is the most cost-effective medium, giving rich dividends for every penny spent. The factors that make it truly economical are its size, longevity, visibility and penetration. As compared to print medium where the size of the advertisement is calculated in centimeters, outdoor does the same in feet, giving you a much bigger canvas. If one were to analyse logically, for one insertion of half page in a popular English daily will cost upwards of Rs.10 lakh and that will be seen only once for a minute. Whereas in Outdoor, an ad on a Unipole of 20x10 in a premium location will be seen for one whole month by lakhs of commuters during day and night for a sum starting as low as 1 lakh!  Similarly, an outdoor creative has a very long life as compared to a TV commercial or newspaper ad. Its strategic locations make it an advertiser’s favourite, while the reach is simply unsurpassable. So, to brand outdoor advertising as expensive, is pure misconception.   

Take sites on fixed basis: Most clients look at big brands and make their campaigns as benchmark to follow. Not every campaign can be executed like Apple or Airtel. Clients should brainstorm with their agencies and media owners and decide upon their own campaign rather than looking at the market. For a lot of SME clients who have limited budgets, Outdoor media owners provide campaigns on fixed and rotational basis. Usually 80% of traffic is similar on a daily basis, hence rotating the sites has huge advantages. Through a rotational campaign, a client can display at four locations instead of one on a monthly basis at same cost thereby garnering eyeballs as high as 300-400%! A potent mix of fix and rotational site campaign can give much required impetus to outdoor campaigns. It might be a bit difficult to track but if you are working with trusted media owners then no need to worry.

Outdoor advertising lacks data: Those advertisers who largely depend on surveys, data, market research, consumer behaviour, etc believe that Outdoor advertising is not supported by data and research. It is a misnomer which should be shattered sooner the better. What actually is data? Has someone ever raised a question that whole TV Broadcasting industry used to run on 10000 boxes of TAM which have recently become 20000 boxes of BARC?? Can these numbers justify the fact that today every second Indian household has a television? IRS numbers for print media work on their own assumptions of having x number of readers per household as well as the fact that every individual in a house is a reader! Such data points also prove that rather than opting for a practical point of view, we are becoming ignorant and falling for just any data. Falling for such data points can’t take away the fact that crores of vehicles are being used to daily commute all across India. Only if eyeballs were data points, and some common assumptions would have come, had outdoor grown multiple times? A question which requires lot of soul searching!

Outdoor is not necessary in advertising plan: Many advertisers are of the strong opinion that outdoor is not integral to advertising, and they can achieve their marketing goals without outdoor. But to put things straight, advertising without outdoor is sheer waste of time, money and effort. By ignoring outdoor from your advertising plan, you tend to lose out a major chunk of your target audience. An advertising plan should always encompass all relevant media in appropriate proportion. Actually outdoor serves as a good reminder medium too. When someone sees an ad in a newspaper in the morning and listens to the same ad through a radio spot while driving in his car and watches it on a outdoor hoarding, his recall value on that product/service is very high. So, it makes sense to make the most of this medium.

Take Metro panels and burn the budget: Plenty of advertisers consider that outdoor advertising is limited to Metro panels/ stations/ trains. Such people should be made aware that, Metro panels are just part of outdoor media, not the media itself. It is a very common misconception among those who thrive on half-baked ideas. Resorting to just Metro panels, to achieve the ends, will never yield the desired results. In fact, people using this medium to commute is not even 1/5th of the total population of any city and eventually they also have to travel out of metro station to reach their homes. Not everyone and that too discerning customers wants to travel in Metros.  Metro caters to a very restricted class with even more limited visibility because of too much crowd. So, for all-round results, a genuine mix of outdoor media should be relied upon.

Traditional agency can burn outdoor budget as well: A specialist is a specialist. No generalist can substitute it. Similarly, a specialised outdoor agency cannot be replaced with a traditional agency. If you have a budget for outdoor advertising, trust a hardcore outdoor agency which has the experience, expertise, means and vision to do justice to any given campaign. Most of the Outdoor media owners themselves have skilled professionals to work on outdoor campaigns or they have better negotiating power with other media owners. The sites at their disposal, the expertise they command and the experience they carry can turn your campaign into a case study, and you can go laughing to your bank.

Only big is beautiful: The canvas of outdoor advertising is much broader than expected. Common perception that big hoardings are the mainstay of outdoor advertising, is a big sham. Outdoor media consists of smaller media like Pole Kiosk, Police Booth, Public Utility, Dustbin, Standing Panel, Benches, Tree Guard, Vending Kiosk, etc which are equally useful and strategic to your needs. Carpet advertising with a relatively smaller medium can be far more cost-effective and do wonders as compared to big hoardings.

Media owners are mafia: The gravest misconception ruling the roost is that outdoor media is controlled by mafia, and they dictate terms in the industry and heavily influence policy formation. But it is time for such misconceptions to go. Outdoor media is becoming an organised business, guided and controlled by govt policies. They don’t operate on their whims and fancies, and pay utmost regard to the Outdoor Advertising Policy set out by Civic Authorities and approved by Supreme Court. Apart from a few aberrations, all outdoor media owners strictly conform to the law of the land, and work within the prescribed framework. As for black sheeps, every industry has it.

So, it is in the interest of every discerning advertiser to get rid of such misconceptions and make optimum use of outdoor media to meet their ends.

(The author is Director of Graphisads, an advertising agency offering solutions in print, outdoor, electronic, event, exhibition, and digital)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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