The outdoor audience is widening as more and more people spend increased hours out of home. Presently, the outdoor is a Rs 5-billion industry and the medium contributes to almost 10 per cent of the total advertising spends. While outdoor has been contributing about 5-6 per cent of advertising industry spends world over, it has been around 8.5 per cent to 10 per cent in India and is expected to be an Rs 6-billion industry very soon.
Inspite of these buoyant facts, not all is picture-perfect for outdoor. Being a fragmented medium, and many-a-time falling short of expectations, outdoor has the responsibility to make a living for itself. Says MOM's COO Soumitra Bhattacharya, "The biggest challenge is the way leading players react in the face of consolidation, it's imperative that we work together in building the outdoor business further and address the possible loopholes within the medium. We are so used to being fragmented that it may be difficult for us to work as a single unit even though advertisers are looking at this medium in a serious way. Other challenges are attracting and retaining talent, delivering audience figures for campaigns through scientific research on the targeting and effectiveness of OOH advertising. Monitoring and competition tracking is another issue."
What next for outdoor? He says, "There is a lot of promise for growth and big spends in OOH but we are cynical because clients are demanding audience figures and the merit of choosing one OOH option over another. If this data takes longer to arrive through the syndicated research route, then the ones who have it will widen their lead and we would be forced to commission a proprietary research."
Meanwhile, Nabendu Bhattacharyya, Activation Head, Ogilvy Landscape, says that the industry needs to be re-organised just a bit with some more pro-active work from the vendors side. He says, " I think that the industry ought to be regularised just a bit and the vendor should re-invest on properties and bring some amount of aesthetic value to the look and feel of the properties, be it billboards, street furniture or any other media vehicles. Outdoor specialist agencies are working on the research front with MRUC to bring in more accountability for the industry."
Anuj Kanakia, spokesperson, StarSight, believes that the scene is a lot more buoyant for OOH today, than ever before. He says, "If we look through our estimates, OOH has fared quite well in the year 2004. It has seen an approx. rise of 8-10 per cent over last year, during the festive time i.e. October-December, has seen occupancy at its peak with about 80-85 per cent. This is equivalent as compared to the dotcom and sensex boom era a few years back. But even with OOH looking extremely buoyant, the challenge is us getting an Industry status, meaning there should be certain standard norms i.e. rules and regulations for the existence of this medium."
Kanakia says, "However now with MRUC taking up the initiative to bring credibility to the medium via various evaluation tools and techniques, it enables clients to justify the spends on the medium. A lot of agencies including us have come forward and are supporting the same, looking at which Out-of-Home will shortly be a credible medium."
Inspite of the odds, outdoor advertising remains an effective and low-cost means of communication for businesses. With substantially more miles being driven by a record amount of vehicles, the audience for outdoor is growing at an extremely rapid pace. All the while, the competing media has become more and more fragmented by the addition of thousands of satellite and cable TV channels, Internet sites, magazines and newspaper publications, leaving outdoor as the one medium that cannot be diluted.