Ever since the success of the Kurkure Express, Indian’s first ever cross-country branded train, which was flagged off by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav on April 19, 2007, brands like Airtel, and recently Max New York Life Insurance, have begun using long distance trains to humanise their brands.
exchange4media speaks to industry experts on the latest transit media to address issues like will cross-country trains become the next big thing in OOH; what is the status of local branded trains; whether the statutory authorities like the municipal corporation, etc., should take a cue from the Indian Railways, so that OOH can be a streamedlined.
Expressing his views on the transit medium, Indrajit Sen, CEO, Stroeer OOH Media India, said, “Transit is always an important medium in the OOH space. FMCG as well as utility brands like Financial – investments and insurance, Consumables, Mobile Services, etc., have always found it very effective. So, its not surprising that the Railways monetise its natural assets.”
“The way one uses it depends on whether the distances are short or long. Technology also supports innovations like on-line news and other coverage inside running trains as well as networked ads in all stations in a route, etc. Stroeer has been a pioneer in transit advertising and currently services the entire network of the German railway system. The fact that road transport also provide similar opportunities have also been recognised and buses with displays covering entire exteriors are already common. Within cities, there are distraction issues, and in very crowded roads like in Mumbai and Pune, issues like very limited visibility for ads on sides or back of taxis are slowing down investment. But, that would not be the case in – say – in Delhi or Chennai or many other cities. Transit is already happening – it’s only left to the users and the transit owners how best to utilise the opportunities,” Sen added.
Sriram Iyer, CEO, Street Culture, is very upbeat about the medium. He said, “For mass appeal brand like cellular service providers, FMCG goods and certain financial products, long distance train branding works like magic. The humungous exterior display provides a spectacular front at every station for the locals to absorb the message. The interiors provide a captive audience who is staring at it for long hours. The initiative by the Indian railways to exploit this medium is commendable and well thought out. For the relevant advertisers it is another affirmation of outdoors ability to deliver captive audiences.”
However, Iyer felt that comparing long distance trains with local/intra-city rail network would not be right. “What a local train in Mumbai or the Metro in Delhi and Kolkatta deliver, are audiences commuting repeatedly in a definable geographic area. The messages targeted to these commuters could be anything in the realm of consumption. The ability to define the demographic and psychographics of the local traveller makes targeting a relatively easy job. The vast differences in the SEC of long distance train passengers, has made the medium attractive only to the bold advertiser. But just like other outdoor media, which has evolved and asserted its importance, even this medium will soon have its die-hard fans,” Iyer pointed out.
Ajaz Memon, Director, Network Media Solutions, too felt that the Railways was a great medium, but only if used in a better way. He, however, pointed out that BMC and the Railways were two different streams, which were currently poles apart. “The railway network can offer the highest number of eyeballs compared to any other transit medium. Both local and long-distance trains have their own utility as long as you make the creative medium-specific. For example, long-distance trains should carry a more national and generic message, where as the local ones should carry a city-specific message,” Memon observed.
“The BMC is still making up its mind on whether it is pro or anti-OOH. It treats the OOH industry more like a necessary evil than an active partner. Since the BMC is first a regulator before anything else, its role cannot be compared to the Railways in terms of promoting the medium. At best, BMC can, with foresight, envision new avenues for generating revenues for itself without compromising on aesthetics, which rightly seems to be its new mantra,” he pointed out.
In contrast, Soumitra S Bhattacharyya ,CEO, Laqshya Outdoor, isn’t as upbeat as others. He said, “Train branding has always been there and it is not new. Earlier, there were total train brandings, but more of the small patches on the outside or inside. This time probably they are trying to do it a little better. Long distance train branding does not seem to be interesting as of now for two reasons – firstly, because the media budget is still spent on the top 6-7 towns, so why pay for a long distance train that goes through a top town just once a day. And secondly, because I am sure after a few 100 km the entire train becomes filthy so why go for these brandings?”
“Having said that, there is tremendous potential for the EMU or locals that ply within the city. These trains do not have the above two negatives and if done well (for example, in conjunction with full station branding) can attract the advertiser. The problem is that the concessionaire who has the station probably does not have the train so coordination suffers,” Bhattacharyya added.
Giving his creative angle on the long distance train is Santosh Padhi, National Creative Director, Leo Burnett. While calling for a balance between the spends on the media and the creative, Padhi asked, “I think when you have the entire elephant, why just use a part of the elephant, and make the elephant look like much smaller than what it is? One must never under estimate what it can do, both in terms of physical and mental imprints, which is why we need to over come the half-hearted approach, which has been our weakness over the years, and it’s time for us to over come the same.”
“Getting the entire train to advertise is a great way of approaching the consumers and engage them with your brand apart from just branding. But one must understand the fact that if one is spending crores on the buying the medium, then one must spend some on the creative, so that those crores will come alive and make some sense to the brand, that way the campaigns will be remembered for the content which connects human beings,” Padhi further said.