Annie Rickard was a founder of Posterscope UK. Since 2001, has led the development of the global network which is now Posterscope Worldwide. She is now Global CEO of Posterscope. The network has over 600 people, in 48 offices around the world. Rickard is passionate about being a pioneer for the medium looking for new opportunities for advertisers that better integrate the medium with search, mobile, content and transaction.
In India this week, we caught up with Rickard to talk about a variety of topics. Excerpts from the interview:
How is Posterscope differentiating itself?
We have always had a very different proposition from the others. We have always thought that it is very important to lead with insight and to invest in our understanding of the consumer when they are outside their homes. You start with the consumer, what are they insights and, then, what are the potential solutions from OOH. Going forward we have continued to reinvent ourselves and adapt to the changing market. For example, currently, our focus is on real time content. We are really pioneering dynamic, real-time content on OOH screens. Also, how you can use data to smartly target the right people with the right message at the right time. I honestly think that we have maintained a clear, differentiating vision from the rest of the market as pioneers in the OOH market.
Where does India fit into the overall global strategy of Posterscope?
India is a very strategically important market for us, not least because of its size. We have a very successful operation here and they are going at a faster rate than most of the other markets. Haresh (Haraesh Nayak, Regional Director, Posterscope Asia Pacific. & MD of Posterscope Group India) was telling me today we are growing at 15 per cent as compared to last year and for an established business I think that is a great result.
India is important in terms of scale but it is also important because the team here has always been in touch with global developments and they have always been quite keen; they are what we would call early adopters. They see something that they like in another market, they bring it into India, they reinvent and reshape it for the Indian market. They are very entrepreneurial. So, there are some very interesting things happening here and we can then take these to other markets.
I think India is among the top 5 leading Posterscope markets.
What are the budgets allocated for outdoor advertising in other countries vis-à-vis India?
It does vary enormously. If you go to the US, it would roughly be 3 per cent of overall advertising budget and that has not grown a huge amount in the time I have been in the business. You can say that it is a great challenge or a great opportunity. I have been calling it a great opportunity for the past 10 years. In some European markets, you would see OOH forming 9-11 per cent of advertising; in the UK it is about 10 per cent. So, for some reason or the other, it does tend to vary a lot.
In India, OOH is a very important medium for advertisers and so it tends to have a higher percentage of spends (around 10 per cent) and this is also growing.
So, according to you, what needs to be done to increase this number from 10 per cent to, maybe 15, or even higher?
In my opinion, I think you need to see some a bit more consolidation on the media owners side. What we have seen everywhere else in the world is that when you have less players, the investment goes up. When you have lots of small players, they actually invest less collectively in the medium. You also get more collaboration when you have a smaller number of players. There is more opportunity to sit down together and talk about what needs to be done to grow the medium. I think the medium needs to work together and it is easier to have this conversation when there are less people. I think with that investment, you will get more digital, which is critical and I think this is very important because one day, everything will become digital. It is about 2-3 per cent in India. I think it is a bit behind as compared to other markets and one reason for this is the lack of consolidation and we have really seen digital investment take off in other markets.
I think another thing that would be really helpful would be some collective investment in audience data. There is no single currency for the whole medium and this would be really helpful. At the end of the day, it is about making a case for OOH against other media.
What will be the focus for Posterscope going forward?
Posterscope India thinks very carefully before they do anything. Everything they do, they take a long term view. So, in the beginning it was about training people, which still continues to be the case. There is a lot of focus on training people to use tools available for proper OOH planning. There is a tool we have developed for ambient planning (Ambient Analyzer) and I think that is exactly the right way to go. I think the focus will be on continued investment to make the medium accountable, how to demonstrate the effectiveness of the medium and how to demonstrate RoI.
I am in touch with the team here regularly and one of the things that struck me today when I saw some of the pieces of work done here was that they were all equally as good as anything I have seen, anywhere else in the world. So, high quality, pioneering, breaking the boundaries, constantly looking to do things differently; these would be the ambitions of Posterscope in India.
Talking about training, how do you attract and retain the right talent? Also, how easy or difficult is it to find the right talent in this industry?
It has always been a challenge actually. I think it is a challenge for everybody in the media communications business because there are so many digital start-ups. There is a lot of movement. People move from one business to another very easily. I think there are a number of things that can be done retain talent and it is just not about money. Investing in people’s careers is very important. So, we have always taken a long term view about this. For example, in the UK, we are a part of Investors in People scheme where we have achieved gold standard. In other countries we do something similar, which is about investing in people and keeping up training. I think, increasingly, we are seeing a bit of movement across the world, which I am excited about. The last time we checked, we have 8 people who have moved from Posterscope in one country to Posterscope in another country and I think is very important for a brand to get this time of consistency but also for young people coming into the business, it is good for them to work in a different market. This is not something money can buy.
So, this is one initiative that we will continue building on. The other thing we are looking at recently is doing an exchange program. For example, we will have a group of people going to Japan for a week and there will be another group coming from Japan to London. And we are discussing doing the same thing with India. Giving people the opportunity to experience different cultures and markets is important.
Also, if you are doing good work and winning awards people are excited about that. They want to work with companies that are win and do great work, as they rightly should.
You mentioned focus areas for India. From a business standpoint, could you tell us, what the objectives will be in the coming years?
I think in the immediate future, in the next year or two, it will be about continuing to develop the product, invest in insight and effectiveness and continue with the people training. Also, the team here is very ambitious; it is quite a hungry team, they want to go out and win business. So I can expect a lot more pitches and successful pitches I hope. There won’t be any major changes in strategy but we will just build on whatever we have done so far. Also, I think we should take a lead in digital in this market. I know it is still 3 per cent but we have a lot of experience from around the world which we will share with the team here.
How does OOH advertising continue to remain relevant in a world where everyone is just talking about digital or social media or mobile?
If you think about what we do on digital OOH around the world, we are able to put content on screens in real-time. We are able to use data to help us decide what the content should be. The whole world of OOH has shifted. There was a time when OOH was only about awareness and impact. But now you can have a conversation with consumers. You can target them, you can use mobile data around a location to select your target audience, to tell you who is around. There are endless possibilities and that expands the role for OOH so I think its future is probably brighter than ever. I feel it is more relevant in the digital world rather than being less relevant.
How far are we from seeing all this in India?
The real challenge here is the infrastructure. We need to see more digital panels built before we can start. Everything that I talked about earlier, we can do in India tomorrow but not on scale. We would be able to do it in a handful of locations, we can make them interactive; all that can be done in India today but it is the scale that is the issue.