The outdoor advertising industry in India is slowly moving away from being considered an insignificant medium to now being recognised as an effective medium that perhaps is best suited for executing creative ideas. The Indian out-of- home (OOH) industry has come a long way from being billboard-oriented, as advertisers who are now effectively using this medium understand that the outdoor medium is much larger than flat surfaces that boringly convey your brand or idea.
The first day at the Outdoor Advertising Convention (OAC) in Mumbai discussed relevant issues such as effectiveness of outdoor advertising, what works or does not work for OOH.
OOH is not just used by companies to leverage their brands but also used by government bodies to inform and educate people and also get funds to support projects that help in developing a city’s infrastructure. One such work is being done in Hyderabad by NVS Reddy, Additional Commisioner, Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH). Reddy spoke on ‘Leveraging the social and financial benefits of outdoor advertising - The Hyderabad example’ and how Hyderabad used the help of corporate houses and outdoor advertising to build its infrastructure.
According to Reddy, India was increasingly being urbanised and today, more than countries competing with each other, it is cities that are competing with each other. This makes it critical for every city to have a robust infrastructure so that it is recognised as a world-class city. Hyderabad is a radial city and has very well defined markets. The MCH wanted to build Hyderabad and it joined hands with companies to promote the ‘Fund Your City’ project. The primary idea behind this project was to get financial help (sponsorship) from corporate houses by giving them an opportunity to develop certain pockets in Hyderabad where they could then advertise heavily.
Some of the key concerns that the MCH was targeting were air-pollution, garbage, floods, sanitation, public health, slums, and lack of public spaces. The MCH started by encouraging corporate social responsibility (CSR) that essentially got everyone from the city to contribute towards this project either financially or even through ideas that could work in developing Hyderabad’s infrastructure. The MCH started by taking necessary steps to change bureaucratic control to co-operation, regulation to facilitation, structuralism to functionalism and hierarchy to multi-directional flows.
When the project gained momentum, the MCH told corporates that participating in the project would give them opportunities to build their corporate identity, result in better commercial gains through building brand image and encouraging a general ‘feel good factor’ in the minds of people about the company. Gradually, as corporates participated in larger numbers, the healthy spirit of competition for sponsorship grew.
The project is a success and the MCH has given the respective corporate houses the liberty to develop certain pockets in the city while ensuring that Hyderabad city is profiting through this project. Corporate houses have also advertised through kiosks, ATMs, theme parks, bus shelters, food courts that they have funded.
Reddy said, “Advertising is done to inform, persuade and remind. This project has effectively used OOH and recently built skywalks, bridges, bus shelters are now prime advertising spots in the city. The project has proved that a city is the responsibility of everyone who lives in it.”
Jasmin Sorabji, President-South Asia, MediaCom, stressed on the superiority of effective communication over an idea’s reach.
Sorabji said, “Advertising is about turning consumers into fans. Your consumer has to be your fan so that they are loyal and love your brand.” One of the ways to turn consumers into fans is to use communication channels that are more engaging and relevant. The medium should unleash the power of the idea of the creative.
Sorabji added, “Every idea can be best brought out through one medium more than it would be effectively brought out while using other mediums. However, an idea should dominate the medium and not the medium that should dominate the idea.” Sorabji further said that while TV was an important medium, some ideas were best brought out through OOH or even print.
One of the main concerns when people choose OOH over TV is that the clutter is simultaneous in OOH. This makes OOH highly dependent on the creative idea and it is very critical for your outdoor ad to stand out. It is also not very easy to gauge the target audience while advertising through OOH.
Speaking on OOH’s advantages, Sorabji added, “Outdoor is everywhere. The most important point while selling an idea is to give it the right medium.”
The OAC also had an Outdoor Advertising Quiz conducted by Pratap Bose, CEO, O&M, and sponsored by Posterscope, India. Bose asked the audience a number of thought-provoking questions related to the outdoor industry. Three winners will be given a cash prize of Rs 50,000, Rs 30,000 and Rs 20,000, respectively.
The event concluded with a panel discussion that debated on the topic of “Outdoor advertising being measured by value or measured by price.” The debate raised issues of the outdoor industry moving away from hand-painted boards to large format digital printing and how technology is playing an important role in developing the industry.
Printers said that the industry should have standardised practice and clients who understood the importance of quality printing and quality surfaces should also understand that printing jobs today were much more reasonable than they were earlier and this made it difficult for printers to deliver good quality at low prices.
While there are a number of issues that the OOH industry needs to solve, the panel agreed that the OOH industry is consolidated and there exists a certain level of professionalism that was absent earlier. The debate’s conclusion was that people in the industry should balance between value for money and money for value.