Even as the OOH industry struggles to find new, innovative ways to use the medium, a medium that was once popular has been sidelined. We are talking about mobile OOH, which included specialized vehicles or vans which could be parked wherever the client wanted to display his hoarding. Seen across the city till a few years back, their use is now severely limited. In Mumbai, for example, mobile OOH vans only have permission to operate in three locations — near Haji Ali, Juhu Cirlce in Andheri and Mahim causeway.
The reasons are many, primarily, a feeling among policy makers that these mobile vans posed a danger to traffic safety. After a couple of court cases (with the Supreme Court also intervening), permission was restricted to these three locations. The situation is more or less similar in other metros. Mangesh Borse, Founder of Symbiosis Advertising, which is among a handful of operators who still run mobile OOH vans, emphasises that there is nothing wrong with the medium but it needs government support. “It (mobile OOH) has been unnecessarily dragged into controversy and suffered. I hope policy makers see the value in this concept. So far, it has been a struggle trying to convince them,” he said.
Saurabh Gupta, MD & CEO, RoadAds, believes that mobile OOH is an attractive medium, which is likely to grow. RoadAds focuses on rural regions. Gupta’s company advertises on a fleet of more than 30,000 trucks that ply the national highways. However he does not run any specialized OOH vans in cities stating that getting permissions from civil bodies for this is very difficult.
Despite legal hurdles, Borse argues that the medium lends itself well to OOH since it is easier to execute than traditional hoardings, is non-permanent and does no damage to the environment. But what about OOH agencies themselves, do they see it as a viable solution? One major OOH agency we spoke to said that the concept is good, but is being mismanaged. The agency is planning to launch its own mobile OOH service this year. In fact, a number of agency heads spoke about commitments not being kept and lack of honesty from mobile OOH van operators as a turn-off.
Said Sanjeev Gupta, MD of Global Advertisers, “Commitments were not fulfilled. Also, some of them would not follow laws, for example, even if they had license for just van, they would run ten.” This sentiment is echoed by Atul Srivastava, COO of Laqshya Media, who also says that there was a lack of trust in some cases.
When we put this question to Borse, he opined that it was not a case of commitments not being kept. “There are far too many media controls in this space so there is no media friendliness from the legal side. Since this is a new medium, people try to push the envelope,” he said. However, he did agree that certain elements were taking “risks”, which could have caused the government to make its decision.
According to Haresh Nayak, Regional Director, Posterscope Asia Pacific & Managing Director, Posterscope Group India, the problems for this concept started once the government banned it from the roads and restricted its area of operation. “Mobile OOH provided a way to have multiple, customised brand messages in multiple locations. However, it has now become static like any other hoarding and lost the original appeal,” he said.
However, not everyone has a negative opinion about the future of mobile OOH. For example, even Nayak agrees that it is cheaper than regular hoardings, hence a good second choice. Plus it is possible to do activations and innovations around it. Rajiv Saxena, MD, Blue Ocean Media also opines that despite issues of traffic and congestion, the medium is an eye-level medium, which is always an advantage in OOH advertising.
Like so many things in the OOH sector, the mobile OOH space needs a little more understanding from law makers and civil bodies for it to bloom. The OOH industry itself seems to have belief in its promise, with, perhaps, expectation of more transparency from mobile OOH operators.