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Outdoor - the creative dilemma

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Outdoor - the creative dilemma

Robert Blunt of MasterCard fame once said, “Each medium provides an opportunity to version the message.” Examine the quote and two nagging questions spring to mind. What if the message just isn’t good enough? And would a medium be able to justify its cause even in the absence of a strong creative idea?

The biggest drawback with outdoor research (the global scene) is that most of the time, number crunchers measure the creative work and not the benefits of the medium in isolation. Unlike radio, print and television, outdoor is a medium that doesn’t quite depend on editorial matter. So, is the creative idea the only means of attracting the right kind of audience? Does this also mean that if the creative fulfils its objectives, the outdoor effort is successful? Or if the creative bombs, the medium fails too?

Arminio Ribeiro, President, Portland India doesn’t quite agree. Says he, “The answer is probably a ‘No’. I don’t really know of any Indian case study that would support the above statement. However there are international cases wherein superb creative and relatively poor media placement have still managed to create huge awareness levels in UK (examples would be of Wonderbra and Economist. In addition, there is a case study (Legal and General) which shows that good media placement based upon the client’s own data (planned against post code data on pension update), coupled with dreadful creativity actually led to a 77% rise in pension sales. These occurrences were noted in Q1 2002 when national outdoor was coupled with national press and door drops.”

JC Giri, Ogilvy Landscape asserts that the success of outdoor is rooted in many other aspects than just the creative idea. Giri believes, “The success of any outdoor campaign is vastly determined by the planning and the brand mapping process and it’s of supreme importance that you reach the right audience at the right place and the right time. The choice of out-of-home media vehicles and the communication creative deliveries are the other determinants. While the creative idea and execution is very important and is one of the key factors in determining the effectiveness of the outdoor campaign, planning and brand mapping are equally important, assuming that the buying is equally effective.”

Giri gives the creative its due when he says, “The more creative the outdoor communication, the less media weight you would have to apply. Creativity in outdoor could be as simple and straightforward as a smart copy job or just fine art and you would have sufficient opportunities to bring about improvisations and innovations. For instance in Europe, there are specialists who work only on 3D visual appeal on out-of-home communications.”

Soumitra Bhattacharya, President, MOMS remarks, “Creative does play an important role but also important is the placement and environment to aid its visibility and hence effectiveness. While there are umpteen innovations in outdoor, the most noticeable ones have been the ones where the innovation enhanced the creative idea and depicted it in a much more attractive/eye catching manner.”

Ratnakar Rai, Managing Director, Prime Outdoors asserts, “There’s so much more to outdoor than meets the eye. The planning and brand mapping process is an arena that holds primary importance, while the creative idea adds to the overall outdoor effort. I don’t think that outdoor would be less effective if the creative idea is not so good. How visible are you, that’s the question that plays a big part. Often two mediums complement each other in giving the right kind of message. Or maybe where one medium fails, another takes off. Either way, the game is not all about the creative idea, it’s also about the creative treatment given by outdoor specialists to the billboards.”

As per the experts, the effectiveness of outdoor doesn’t quite depend on the creative idea. But the crucial question is - would Indian consumers have given Hutch hoardings such attention in the absence of a worthy creative idea? Or would Jassi have made such an impression on the hoardings in the absence of the core creative thought? Or would HP Power boards have lit a candle with the audiences without the English movie trailer theme? At the end of the day, can a lousy creative idea really boast of an effective outdoor campaign?


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