With Delhi’s out-of-home (OOH) advertising space coming under the scanner following the adoption of Outdoor Advertising Policy that forbids the placing of ‘unipoles’ within 75 metres of any road or crossing, there are calls for a hoarding-free region by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in Mumbai, before March 2008. Questioning the need for OOH regulations in Mumbai with some OOH players across country, exchange4media tries to understand their perspectives.
Noting his observations on the present status of the OOH medium in the country, Indrajit Sen, Country Head and CEO, Stroer Media, and Vice Chairman, Indian Outdoor Advertising Association (IOAA), was of the opinion that ‘regulations’ for outdoor advertising media appeared to have become the latest bogey in our country. “Regulations are necessary – they would make cities look better, make our citizens feel better, and would also result in better industry performance, etc. But now that we are seeing the real picture of the regulations, we simply must begin to vehemently demand that any change or new regulations should be first preceded by town planners that take care of overall aesthetics, cityscape, public utilities, cleanliness and emissions, road and public transport design, as well as a detailed guideline for the process of implementation of the regulations.”
Sen added that the intention to ‘improve’ the cityscape and reduce traffic hazards was all very laudable, but action was needed to substantiate them. “It is only to state the obvious when one says that specialised subjects like visibility, relationship to hazardous traffic, etc. need specialised handling and treatment. Examining the facts logically would lead any rational mind to conclude that none of the current ‘policies’ or proposed ‘guidelines’ would bring about positive changes or would benefit the society at large in a permanent way. Merely tinkering with some hoarding sizes and placing restrictions of placement will not improve the way any city looks,” he said.
Others like Farid Kureshi, COO, Times OOH, have taken a neutral stand about the issue. Kureshi observed that worldwide, outdoor media like street furniture and billboards complemented and enhanced the city landscape. “In India, unfortunately, it’s a huge visual pollution. Coupled with poor implementation and monitoring by the city, billboards are the biggest visual polluters of Mumbai. The city, like other major metropolis in the world, should limit the overall billboards, and implement a ban on billboards on heritage buildings, visual landmarks like Marine Drive, hospitals, schools, religious places, etc. These measures are already in place across major cities in the world, so why not in an aspiring city like Mumbai? Also, new guidelines should ensure that the major revenues from billboards should either go to the municipality or to the building society, so that the money can be used in the upkeep of the city or the building.”
Sanjay Pareek, President, Percept OOH, too believes in the need for a standard long-term policy akin to what is present for other media. “There are instances for this medium in India too, like Hyderabad, Bangalore and now Delhi. But they are still not long-term. The policy should be completely thought through, with both public and industry participation, so that the outcome would be beneficial to all concerned. Normally, such initiatives are highjacked by interested parties, who pretend to be neutral.”
Soumitra S Bhattacharyya, CEO, Laqshya Outdoors, supports the regulation and standardisation, and the recent law that restricts signages on heritage buildings and important landmarks. “However, we firmly believe that any regulation or standardisation should be unbiased and fair to all parties concerned, namely the people of the city, the authorities and media owners. In our opinion, what is important is to first take a long-term view of urban town planning requirements in terms of infrastructural needs, transport needs, easy of commuting needs, requirements of parks and open spaces and other such relevant aspects of any urban city. Once that blue print is made, it is only then that an out-of-home policy can be formulated around that blueprint.”
Bhattacharyya said that media owners, who were in reality experts in the field, had to be taken into confidence for the creation of a robust and long lasting policy. “This approach would be a win-win situation for all the parties, especially people of the city who would benefit the most by getting better infrastructure. Authorities get dual benefits of building the infrastructure without any cost to the exchequer, and they also derive revenue from it. Hence, we believe that long-term solution definitely cannot be just a policy in isolation meant only for the hoardings of the city, and any such move is not good for anybody in the long run,” he added.