Navigating through government restrictions: The tricky path for DOOH agencies

Players in the sector say if government approvals are set in motion, DOOH will accelerate further and give brands better ROI

e4m by Noel Dsouza
Updated: Dec 9, 2020 10:51 AM
dooh restrictions

Digital out of home (DOOH) has been thriving when it comes to ambient advertising, especially in restaurants and malls. Digital media sites have also been a preferred medium for brands on transit media sites like metros. However, digital inventories on highways and public spaces in India still haven’t seen much approval from the government. Apart from the approval, other factors like weather condition, infrastructure, traffic restrictions, and the fear of theft have also acted as impediments for the category.

New and revamped digital signages and infrastructure development can help the DOOH sector bloom. With more digital inventories, brands will have an array of opportunities like targeting their campaigns better, offering integration with social media and mobile, and recording precise measurability of DOOH impact.

At the start of 2020, authorities in Mumbai were planning to remove the restrictions for DOOH in the city. However, a final decision is yet to come. Talks about this started in January 2018 when civic body BMC decided to press ahead with the plan to permit digital OOH media installations. The latest development was in November 2019 when Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai was bullish on DOOH, but clarity from the traffic department was blocking the pathway to digital inventories.

e4m spoke to DOOH leaders on how they are navigating through the challenges posed by the restrictions and the solutions they have come up to deal with the problem of lesser digital signages.

Innovations road blocked by restrictions

Gulab Patil, Founder, and CEO of Lemma sharing his perspective said, “The Indian OOH landscape is predominantly static. Whereas, digitization is only happening of late mostly in the place-based media sector. Something as common as digital billboards and spectaculars, in the advanced markets like the US, AU & EU are yet to make a full-fledged appearance in India. Baring a few cities in India, such inventory is a rare sight, and this is largely due to restrictions and lack of support from the government.”

Rishabh Mehta, Founder & CEO, LOCAD shared, “Putting up large DOOH formats on main traffic facing streets etc are still not allowed across India. Few states are now opening up to the idea but will probably take more time. Like other matured markets across SEA and West, the governments have allowed such installations and placements. We need to create and have our own TIMES Square like DOOH properties in India too.”

Navigating through the barriers

Patil, sharing the DOOH solutions Lemma is providing brands with despite the challenges, said, “Our solution is technology-led, agile and is compatible with all screen formats. This has helped us innovate despite restrictions. Our platform enables brands to innovate using data, location, audience insights, real-time questions like weather, traffic signals and much more. Dynamic, contextual and multi-format ad rendering are also key features of our platform that allow brands to think beyond mundane and deliver eye-catching ads using standard DOOH screens, thereby delivering impact.”

Mehta stated, “We have been continuously trying to come up with new formats, be it an interactive kiosk, vending machine, and health check smart machines. We are also working on some other innovative formats which we will be launching early next year.”

As per the new MHA guideline, digital screens have to put out Covid-themed messages, and this has provided DOOH players with an array of opportunities.

Talking about how his agency has been able to deliver DOOH solutions in a Covid environment, Gautam Bhirani, MD, Eyetalk Media Ventures, states, “Digital displays are enhancing not just customer engagement, but also aiding sales amplification and cost rearrangement for restaurants. The shift from static, printed poster material to digital menus and promotions offer unparalleled flexibility and visibility to restaurant operators for keeping patrons updated.”

Bhirani remarked, “With our latest tools developed for the F&B industry, we have recently launched our online SaaS-based model to extend the digitization drive across the country. The adaptation will certainly boost our network of 350+ premium eateries by 30-40% in a month or two. It will give brands a huge opportunity to reach millennials across metros in context and in a captive environment at a click of a button, driving cost-effective data-driven measurable digital campaigns.”

On the distinct solutions Eyetalk Media Ventures provides, Bhirani remarked, “Our inventory of 2000+ content-driven displays is connected across controlled environments. We have been able to provide actionable audience insights to brands like footfalls, peak day-time in restaurants, corporate hubs and co-working spaces through our POS system integration. We gather data from entry and exit points using RFID tags. These insights provide opportunities for marketers to connect with the connected audiences at the right place at the right time with the right content and context, providing maximum ROI and zero media spillover.”

Solutions and appeals to the government
At the moment, DOOH is a small portion of the overall OOH industry pie chart in India. If government approvals are set in motion, DOOH will accelerate further. Widespread DOOH inventories along with pDOOH solutions will also allow brands real-time ROI. Unlike static OOH that caters to one client, DOOH will be able to cater to more than one client.

When asked about the suggestions that the sector would want to give to the government, Lemma’s Founder and CEO Patil said, “Our suggestion to the government is a technology platform that aids in maximum asset utilization while simultaneously covering the cost of installation. These DOOH screens in smart cities on major highways and busy roads will not only serve as a form of communication but also a source of revenue for the screen owners. Programmatic technology enabled screens will serve as an effective and immediate way of driving maximum asset utilization at no cost, thus solving for the high investment needed in setting these screens.”

Mehta suggested that both intercity and intracity need new formats of DOOH media. “They are most likely going to be utility-based formats i.e. infrastructure for EV charging and highway kiosk etc. A lot of new and exciting things are lined up in the coming years and we are surely going to see a whole new level of awareness and demand for DOOH media. We are confident that the government will also be aligned towards such new initiatives and will do whatever is required to really help setup DOOH infrastructure across not only metro cities but also smaller towns and cities,” concludes Mehta.

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