How is the Out Of Home industry coping with the COVID-19 Stay At Home advisory?

OOH experts elaborate on the challenges brought by the COVID-19 lockdown, the strategies being used in these difficult times and the hopes for a bounce back

e4m by Noel Dsouza
Updated: Mar 27, 2020 1:10 PM
OOH and impact of Coronavirus

The Out-of-Home industry thrives in public places. So, the stay-at-home advisory proves to be a major challenge for the sector, although industry leaders agree that the lockdown is essential to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

An OOH expert told exchange4media that as a whole the industry will see a 6 per cent drop in overall spends as compared to the last financial year.

The pandemic has hit the core of the OOH business, says Ketan B Lakhani, Director, Orienta Cine Advertising. “We have turned our Out of Home Service into Work From Home or Stay At Home Communication. We believe, it is our utmost duty to not only think globally but be responsible too.”

Throwing light on the enormity of the losses that the sector was facing, Mandeep Malhotra, Founding Partner, CEO, The Social Street, said almost Rs 20 crore worth of business has been pulled out in a fortnight.

Parag Pandya, Sr. Vice President, OOH, West & East, The Social Street, shared more in terms of the decline in growth. “The best way to fight COVID-19 is to ‘NOT BE OUT-OF-HOME’. How do you think that sounds for advertisers who rely on OOH to reach out to customers? Brands have pushed back their campaigns and those that ran into the storm discontinued their displays. The industry, as a whole, is looking at a decline of about 6% as compared to the last financial year in terms of overall spends.”

These are unprecedented times, the sort we may never again live to see, says Haseeb Faquih, Partner, Captions Outdoor Advertising LLP. “The battle against COVID-19 starts with containment or stay or work from home — the antithesis of Out of Home. With nearly nobody on the streets, advertisers will go off the medium and for an ecosystem that is heavy on fixed costs, be it rentals, taxes, salaries, sustainability during this period will be impossible. We hope all stakeholders appreciate the situation and support us in these testing times.”

According to Jayesh Yagnik, CEO, MOMS Outdoor Media Solutions, the end of the financial year adds to the challenges of closing all billings and making sure the associates get their PO and payments at the right time.

"For us, work is going on but the pace has been definitely hampered. With the lockdown and a curfew situation in multiple cities, OOH is going to be badly hit and till the time the situation improves there aren’t going to be any OOH campaigns for sure. Everyone is waiting with bated breath for the Work From Home mandate to be removed, post which the impact will not be quite so lasting, at least for OOH. The same cannot be said for activation," Yagnik added.

For Payal Patel, Senior Marketing Manager, Devangi Outdoor Advertising, coronavirus has come like a big blow at a time when the industry was developing rapidly.Large scale quarantine, travel restrictions and social distancing measures mean a sharp fall in consumer behaviour and business spending. The fear was not only global but local too. Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, most of the planned ads have got postponed and a few cancelled.”

 Coming to ways in which the industry plans to reboot as soon as the clouds of uncertainty dissipate, Mandeep Malhotra said: “I am constantly in touch with my leadership team to re-engineer the business. We are considering various options to reduce expenses. Clients are shying away from discretionary expenses and OOH is being seen with that filter. I strongly feel it is the right time to invest and not retract.”

Parag Pandya went on to say, “While China took 3 months to recover, with the number of cases on the rise India may take a minimum of 4 months. However, considering this is a Black Swan event, some industries like Grocery & Food, Pharma, Online Education, and Video Streaming may still see growth, albeit the challenges.”

 On ways to beat the hurdles, Payal Patel said: “A strong IT setup and effective channels of communication are the key driving factors. Businesses have been affected drastically since the eyeballs and footfalls of target market are missing due to the lockdown. Essentially, companies have assured that the OOH advertisement sector has just been paused and not discontinued. It will revive post the lockdown with a fresh start. Once the pandemic ends, businesses may take six months to get up and run normally.”

 On a more positive approach, Fabian Trevor Cowan, Director, Posterscope India, remarked that certain events have the power to change history and alter cultures and COVID-19 is one of them. The outbreak has hit the advertising industry in general and the OOH sector can’t remain insulated, Fabian said. “However, the work from home experience has in many ways brought along with it opportunities that we never knew existed. At Posterscope, we are using this time to connect digitally daily, have virtual meetings with teams and clients as well. Additionally, we are urging teams to use this time to develop future strategies and newer ways of handling unprecedented events.”

Summing up, Pankaj Acharya - Founder & CEO - Purple Focus said, “It’s a wait and watch situation everywhere like any other industry. Our OOH spendings are on hold. Let's see what comes out when the situation improves.”

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