NEONS OOH Conference: Industry experts discuss how to align OOH with ROI

Moderated by Rajneesh Bahl, the panel comprised Aditya Tandon, Anil Hirani, Ashish Bajaj, Sanil Jain, and Sonia Serrao, who explained why outdoor advertising is crucial for brands

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Mar 9, 2019 10:46 AM

The 9th edition of NEONS Awards & OOH Conference 2019 for Outdoor Advertising & Digital Signage was held yesterday where delegates from various industry got together to talk about the significance of outdoor advertising. A panel discussion was conducted at the event talking about aligning OOH with ROI. Moderated by Rajneesh Bahl, Founder & CEO, Grey Parrot, the discussion highlighted why there is a need for data for OOH to align with ROI. The panel comprised of Aditya Tandon, Head Marketing, News18, Anil Hirani, Managing Director, Armour Display System Pvt. Ltd,  Ashish Bajaj, Head of Media and Marketing Alliance, OLA, Sanil Jain, Co-Founder, CupShup and Sonia Serrao, Global Media Lead & Head Marketing Procurement - South Asia, Tata Global Beverages. Each one of them put forth their recommendations on how to make outdoor advertising much more efficient and how data can come in handy for a better ROI.

Rajneesh Bahl opened the discussion on a light note saying, “Two things are really tough. One, to have a session just before lunch and second, addressing this topic of return on investment. It has been a topic for me for the last 15-16 years. A lot of out of home conferences have attempted this topic. The only difference I see today is that all the distinguished guests who are there on the podium today, it’s very interesting that this time we have marketing folks and media owners, who have got into other spaces beyond hoardings.” Speaking about the need for strategic planners, Bahl pointed out, “Being in outdoors for the last 20 years, except for the first agency that I worked with, very few agencies work with strategic planners. Everyone invests in buyers or client servicing people. All International agencies invest in strategic planners. There must be a reason. So we can keep on debating on the return of investments but if we don’t have people to take it back and implement it for the industry, it will never happen.” Explaining what exactly this planning is going to talk about, Bahl revealed, “Our attempt is not to give you a formula today. It is basically to learn from them and take away as to why and how the brands, in the absence of ROI, they are using outdoor advertising and still have faith in outdoors. How can we take it forward and put a matrix on the entire thing? According to me, ROI is in two spaces, one is when it comes to media owners. A lot of them investing in media, new tenders going at a high rate, is the ROI really high there? The second part is from the marketing aspect, people who are investing in outdoors, a lot of innovations are happening but we are not growing as per other media standards. If we don’t want to see negative growth in the future, we need to think about value for money. Is ROI a monetary thing or it goes beyond that in terms of outdoors?”

Ashish Bajaj, OLA, asserted how important outdoor advertising is for his brand. “Just to be relevant, brands on the roads is the point of sale. For any other FMCG player, it’s on the retail, for us it has to be on the roads. It definitely one of the strongest mediums that we invest in when we do media planning and budgeting. On the ROI point, we do calculate the demands that we get from those locations. It’s not that we are dependent on agencies to tell us what is the reach or impressions of a particular hoarding is, we are already a data-rich company. We thrive in building the plans for it. Also on the other point, are we calculating on the softer parameters of the brand? No, we are not. That’s where it doesn’t fit in the scheme of things. Definitely, it should. In-market recognition, we are spending an hour or two on the road where it’s the medium, we should definitely give it a go. But yes, how many demand sessions, how many bookings, is what we are getting is the definite ROI calculation that we do to the T, if it’s the only thing we are investing in.”

Bahl countered the explanation saying, “So it’s not the exact numbers in the matric but you are seeing results out of when you spend on outdoors? Ashish answers, “Yes the lower version. The entire conversions we can see. Say for instance, you have picked up a GeoHash level an area as small as the entire ambience mall. If I have a campaign planned in and around the ambience mall, I can track what could be my previous bookings and sessions and what is the impact after the campaign."

Bahl prodded Bajaj further asking, “Can you give an example of a campaign that you have done internationally which is giving you a matric that is absent in India?” Ashish answers in affirmative and says, “This has been a learning experience for us when we launched in the international market, the first one we went to was Australia and the measurement is beautiful. You get the impressions, you get the frequency, and your planning is absolutely as similar as when you do planning for TV or digital. When you launch, you launch in pockets where we are supply-rich. For us GEOhash level planning is important and we were able to do it at a reach & frequency. We are a new brand and a person should see us at least 7 times. Similarly, the UK was also a brilliant example where you can do reach and frequency planning outdoors.”

Bahl then asks Sonia Serrao, Tata Global Beverages ad questions, “Sonia, your brand is not active on outdoors. Is it the ROI or matric or any other reason?”

Sonia explains how it’s all tactical. ”We do use outdoor but it is very tactical because going back to the fundamentals of media planning every medium has a role to play. For other media, we were able to measure incremental reach & frequency. As Ashish said, it has been done in other countries but it is not happening here. So it isn’t an integral part of the strategy, we have used it as an innovation to amplify it through PR in limited cities or as a booster in markets which are priority for us or just to get the trade buzz because there is always this demand from the field that the trade outdoor is very important. Most of them have been very qualitative calls, they are not rooted in the strategy.” Sonia did explain what could be done to make it more data-driven. “I think the need for the industry is to have that common currency. It’s good to see that a lot of individual media owners invested in the measurement system but then again each owner has their own matrix. There has been a start in that direction but it hasn’t moved much. I am a part of the ISA media committee. IOA came to us saying that they want to start a common matrix and ISA agreed to it. To start a proper measurement system in terms of frequency and reach for outdoor. But there has been no progress there. So if the medium has to grow at a rate that is faster than the current single digit or projected 11 percent for next year, it is really important for us to have that common matrix. That’s because there are ways to measure the impact of outdoor but that requires investment. You do a control expose group or you do market mix modelling. But it’s not possible to do that for all campaigns.”

Bahl asks Sonia if it is because outdoors is considered to be a secondary media. “I think it is a chicken and egg story maybe because we can’t measure outdoor or maybe there is no threshold on outdoor. We can’t really see the full impact of outdoor. If we do outdoor, it’s a limited feature in any of the track results or market mix modelling. The moment we are able to measure the media matric and invest at the right level,” Serrao replies. Ashish Bajaj quickly adds here his experience with outdoor advertising which for is primary medium. “For us, it’s the primary medium. When we launch a particular campaign, it has to be the first 7-10 days outdoor to go live. And then we do our print, digital and TV picks up. For us, people are on the road. We are solving the problem of the first mile, last mile. We are changing the perception of how to use autos or perception of bike taxis, how they can be relevant. The need is on the roads if you are not present there, it doesn’t make any sense to the brand.”Now moving to Aditya Tandon, Head Marketing, News 18, Rajneesh asks, “How does TV 18 look at outdoors? You have been using outdoors quite well, to use it consistently and make it work for an ROI there is no matric. How do you evaluate outdoors when it comes to your media planning?

To get a better understanding of why OLA calls outdoor advertising primary, Rajneesh asks, “Is it the media that made it primary to you or the use of media?” Ashish sums it up by saying, “It was available so we were able to use it.”

Tandon points out, “There are a few scenarios that I would like to speak about. But before getting into that let me say that I can’t recall a single media plan in the past six years that didn’t have outdoors. Clearly, the medium and the belief in the power of the medium exists. Challenges are there. But fundamentally, the belief in the power exists.” Tandon then reveals the three broad scenarios regarding the medium. “As Sonia was saying, it is tactical. For us, as a news brand, perception is extremely important so we do deploy large format outdoors targeted at specific constituencies. These would be very limited deployments specific to areas. There is no real measure of whether or not that worked apart from anecdotal evidence we only have so much value. The other two scenarios; they are derived measures that one can look at. As Sonia was saying, in our context, Trade would be ad sales. Typically we would do a lot of deployment for our brand targeting advertisers and media agencies. That ultimately translate in sales. There may not be a direct relationship but certainly makes that medium necessary and hopefully translate into higher revenues and ad volumes. The third scenario, there are specific markets. We also have the network, we are the country’s largest news network. So we have state-level news brands in literally every state of the country.”

Tandon also cited case studies which further corroborated his findings. “We have had situations say for example in Rajasthan, where the legacy brand was ETV. It has such a strong legacy that you know when we started thinking of uniform brand architecture and putting all our brands under News 18, there was a huge pushback from stakeholders from each of these regions saying, ‘hey if we let go of ETV it is going to hit the business really severely.’ There would be a significant decline in viewership numbers and ad revenues. In these markets we realised outdoor has to play a very significant. In Rajasthan, we have 80 percent market share. What is the point of me looking at an alternative news brand, going into national GEC won’t make any sense at all? So we started looking at the local media availability and outdoors was really something that we led with. It was a massive campaign, a multi-city campaign which rolled out and you know the results, we did not lose any market share in any market.”

Rajneesh sought Anil Hirani’s, Managing Director, Armour Display System Pvt. LTD, views on outdoor advertising asking him why he got into the outdoor advertising space. “I feel that we went into outdoors because we saw what the challenges are. The topic here is a very relevant topic. We felt that let us go into that OOH segment where we will be able to fill that space. We went into the digital screens wherein we had a little bit of tech involved; we are able to prove to our customers there is ROI, there is measurability. We have also started rolling out people counting cameras which are able to count and give clients the numbers available there. We do give the data.

Bahl then asks, “So did you give out the numbers or you evaluate and give the numbers?” Hirani explains, “No we give the numbers. We give a dashboard where numbers are there.”

Taking this opportunity of giving a suggestion, Rajneesh Bahl narrating how clients behave when they do get the data. “Just a piece of advice, clients will take it for some time but after that, they will stop. You should invest in, the strategy planner that you are, who can play with numbers, who can give the right numbers to the clients, then only the entire momentum will start because many people have given numbers in the past. Clients don’t have that much time. They will say, ‘Fine thik hai, dusra media dekhte hai’. It’s a great thing that you have entered. But don’t give them the raw numbers. Give them how much money they have put in and what is the outcome.”

Anil Hirani then shared a few case studies which proved why outdoor advertising is crucial for brands. “I will share with you recent case studies. In Bangalore, for the first time in the country, we rolled out 200 screens across the city in which we are showing the ETA of the buses on a real-time basis. There are some 7000 buses where GPA has been installed, through cloud will calculate the ETA. At a particular bus stop, you will know your bus is coming at six minutes or three minutes. So it becomes very relevant data which is there. One of the companies that just started in Bangalore is Bounce. They have started renting scooters. The spike went by 31% and they are continuously using it at all their depots. The result is there for us to prove even if the numbers are there or not there with the study. Another case study I will give you about Chennai. There is a store called Pothys, they have been using us for six to eight years continuously. For them, their customers come from the interiors of Tamil Nadu like Madurai. So they do the study themselves when the customers come in, the owner himself talks to a lot of those customers to find out they are coming with the bags. He asks how come you are here, they say, ‘we saw your ad at train stations, so we came straightaway over here’. These are few of the case studies which prove OOH is there to stay, especially the digital part of it,” Hirani asserts.

Bahl then speaks to Sanil Jain, Co-founder, Cup-Shup, and asks him his perspective on the matter. Jain began by giving an insight into what Cup-Shup basically does before moving on to the topic of the evening. “For people who are not aware, we at CupShup are trying to convert chai-break into conversations for brands. What we do is we specialise in the branding of paper cups. Why? We Indians love our chai time. 5-7 minutes of chai break 2-3 times a day…that is 20-30 mins of break time for brands. That’s the novelty of the concept that we worked upon around our parameters. We have three parameters. One is people, what kind people are we taking our brands to. Second is the place. Now from the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep, we are bombarded by ads. We have to reach a space which is a bit uncluttered. The third is the exposure time. Five-seven minutes of exposure time generates brand recall.” He then goes on to explain how to align all the concept and talk with ROI. “One of the key points that Sonia also mentioned is on deciding on the media mix, we do not have much data available around the OOH medium. Why so because for the longest time, it was the responsibility of the advertisers and the media buyers that they will pull out the data and not so much on the media owners. But now due to the digital shift, now it is media owners’ responsibility to provide brands and agencies as much data as possible so that they can make a decision around it.

Jain too recounted a few case studies to strongly prove his point. He says, “We worked with a dating app to target females. They wanted more female registrations. So we figured out the right touch points, what kind of corporates had more gender proportions, better gender ratio. What kind of B-schools or colleges will have that kind of ratio and then we can run these campaigns. That’s one part about how we can align ROI. Second and more crucial part, the technology that is available in India like QR code, bar code and there are a lot of screens where these are not being used to the extent it should be. We have tried all this stuff with OLA as well, who happens to be our first client. We saw the results as well. The media is bringing direct conversions to the point that transactions are happening. This is also media owners responsibility and not of media buyers.”

At the end of the discussion, Rajneesh Bahl, the moderator, emphasised that there is no formula for ROI and OOH with an anecdote by Einstein. “Not everything which counts can be counted and it’s not everything that’s counted, which counts,” Bahl signs off!

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