The second edition of the Outdoor Advertising Convention (OAC) was held in Mumbai on June 9, 2006. The first half of day one of OAC 2006 brought under the scanner some of the burning issues that are facing the outdoor industry in India at present, ranging from regulations to the need to be more innovative and creative with the medium. A positive facet of the event was the participation of international media houses, reflecting the attention that Indian outdoor is attracting at the global level.
The convention kickstarted with a keynote address from Selvel Vantage Group’s Noomi Mehta, who spoke about the role that outdoor played at a sub-conscious level in the Indian media scene. “It doesn’t matter if it is accidents in Delhi, floods in Mumbai or even someone waking up with a headache – outdoors are held responsible for many such problems and the suggestion given is to reduce the number of hoardings,” said Mehta.
Some of the points that he raised included how the industry should gear up to tackle the growing foreign interest in India. “What policy should we follow, should we have a united face while speaking on these issues or when we speak to the government?” Mehta asked. He emphasised on the need to be able to change when the Indian economy is booming and cease the opportunity available today.
The morning sessions witnessed a slight change in plans when NVS Reddy, Additional Commissioner, MCH, wasn’t able to deliver the first session. Taking his place was Out of Home Media’s Executive Director, Les Holley, who spoke on ‘Self / Government Regulation of the Industry’.
In order to emphasise the need for the industry to understand the importance of self-regulation, Holley began with the question – whose responsibility is regulation – national, local or industry’s? He cited various instances from the South Africa experience to being forth the points that worked in favour of making the medium a robust one in the SA market.
“Our traditional strengths have been accountability and innovation,” said Holley, “Outdoor isn’t just about hoardings – the medium has to be seen creatively so that the uniqueness of impact that this medium brings to the table is evident.” He spoke of the legislative balance that the SA market is witnessing in terms of leveraging outdoor sites to their commercial best and at the same time not hindering environmental sensitivities.
Given the benefits of outdoor as an educational tool, for political advertising and the fact that the medium does accommodate the communication needs of other mediums, Holley believed that there was some amount of interest that all sectors of the industry had in ensuring the outdoor medium was steered to the right direction.
With these he moved on to the point of self-regulation. According to Holley, “Without self-regulation, we are nothing but a bunch of bandits… we are headed towards a situation of chaos and it is a sure shot way to disaster.” Regulation was not only necessary, it was a necessity, he contended.
The next speaker of the day was Rahul Welde, GM, Media Services, HLL, who attempted to educate on ‘How to make outdoor a $1 billion industry’. Welde stated at the beginning that what he brought to the table was the advertisers’ perspective.
“Everything communicates and this holds most true in the case of outdoor medium. There are looming questions like does outdoor deliver value, how much value, does the medium play a distinct role and are there any opportunities for the medium – for me, the answers to all these is in the affirmative,” he maintained.
Welde divided his view into two parts – growing volumes and growing value – even as the latter had a lesser role to play, they both would work together to grow the outdoor medium. On his first point of growing volume, Welde pointed out that in the present state of affairs, outdoor was in any case seeing substantial amount of clutter. The trick was to make use of unconventional spaces – some examples cited here included Brooke Bond on the Gateway of India, Lux consuming staircase in a mall and the international God Campaign.
The next point of growing value sees substance on two pillars – research and measurement, and creativity in Innovation. On the first, as is known, the Indian market has nothing, and on the second, Welde believes that there still is substantial ground to cover.
Research and measurement, which would be able to answer questions like which site to take, how much to pay, the profile of the traveller of the area, and reach, consequently would lead to increased investments. Quoting David Ogilvy, Welde said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” “In my scheme of affairs, engagement is the most important aspect of any medium and in that order, I place outdoor right at the end, simply because it is a static medium and players of the domain have to figure ways of changing this passive element of the medium.”
He gave various international examples like Ponds, Araldite, and BMW Mini, where advertisers had found ways to engage the consumer. An example closer home that he sited was that of Soupy Snax.
With this Welde, threw some light on what he thought was the future of the medium. He pointed examples of blue casting to indicate that it may not be far when an outdoor message would almost become a one-to-one with the consumers. He said, “This is the best time for an industry like outdoor to grow. Factors like booming telecom, financial sector, real estate and allied areas in addition to the fact that the Indian economy is fast changing from a pyramid to a diamond where the number of aspirers are growing are all working in favour of the economy.”