The outdoor market in India is currently looking positive. There is an increase in bookings - more short-term than long-term, largely driven by media, entertainment, telecom and finance categories. But has the sophistication of road signage reached the same level as in the western frontiers?
For instance, in the USA, a popular resort for outdoor is vinyl film, which enables see-through graphics capabilities, a popular choice for vehicle and public transportation advertising. MACtac IMAGin JT5915P perforated window film makes one-way visibility easy to achieve on any application. The 3M Scotchprint System or Shadow Graphics -- these are resorts which are seldom seen on Indian roads.
Anuj Kanakia, Spokesperson, StarSight (outdoor division of Starcom), said, "Outdoor media is improving with more agencies setting up Out-of-Home units with a professional approach being linked to the medium, but since outdoor is always linked to approvals from government authorities/ bodies on bringing in a new dimension to it, the age is yet to arrive. We are not technologically sound since it's a fragmented market. The majority of owners of the media are also not willing to invest in billboard upgradation. Attempts have been made like Magink introduced in Mumbai. However, it has been a disaster. Hence a viable technology with the right execution is the key."
Agreeing with Kanakia, MOMS COO Soumitra Bhattacharya, said, "Sophisticated signage has started to emerge in the retail segment and it shall arrive in other sectors only when there is money in it. Currently even if you had upgraded your outdoor site to one that is sophisticated, you would not get the incremental return for your investments. We are not technologically sound at all because the price of a billboard is not determined on how much return it gives you but on the other factors."
Bhattacharya added, "IOAAA along with MRUC are working on the Indian Outdoor Survey, which would answer the questions that come to the clients mind currently and thereby make the outdoor industry accountable for more spends to happen in this sphere. Once the spends happen then only can we see the advent of better sophisticated signages in outdoors."
Meanwhile, Arminio Ribeiro, President of Portland, validates the lack of sophisticated signage by saying, "The Indian outdoor industry is unique and extremely complex given its structure and geographical spread. As such, it is extremely expensive for an outdoor specialist agency to offer similar service standards to a client who is accustomed to the high standards offered by traditional media."
It's also a viewpoint shared by Rathnakar Rai of Prime Outdoors. Rai said, "You need huge investment models for the kind of sophistication that's seen in the western markets. And let's not forget that as an industry, outdoor is just picking up. The technological finesse and sophistication will come in gradually, in tandem with the increasing spends on the medium. In addition, India, as a market is geographically quite distinct and diverse from most of the western markets. What works outside, may not necessarily work here."
Having had this discussion, it still needs to be pointed out that outdoor follows a different course in different markets, depending on the sensibilities and needs of the people there. For instance, in the UK, outdoor comprises of 95 per cent paper, while in America, outdoor comprises largely of paint. In India, the medium has made more advances than most places in the world. Tri visions and wave machines will come in eventually, perhaps with increased client involvement and greater monies for the medium.