Integration with technology and expansion beyond metros identified as key areas for accelerating growth of OOH industry

Marketers and outdoor agency representatives spoke about marrying outdoor with digital technologies and moving beyond select outdoor locations in a few metro cities to take the OOH industry ahead

e4m by Saif Ahmad Khan
Updated: Mar 27, 2017 8:35 AM

While outdoor remains a favourite medium for many in the advertising fraternity, the OOH industry has not been enjoying rich dividends. Speaking at the seventh edition of exchange4media’s NEONS OOH Awards, Anurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of BW Businessworld and exchange4media Group, highlighted the lack of annual growth in the OOH industry when it came to attracting advertising money. “In the outdoor industry, what is worrying today is that the size of the outdoor industry is not growing. It’s less than Rs 3,000 crore. There is still no measurement mechanism in outdoor,” said Batra.

Shortly after Batra called for the industry to target Rs 5,000 crore annually in terms of advertising spends, leading marketers and outdoor professionals held a panel discussion on turning OOH into a primary medium for marketing. The engagement resulted in an overwhelming support for marrying outdoor with digital technologies and moving beyond select outdoor locations in a few metro cities.

What sets outdoor apart   

Initiating the discussion, moderator Pawan Bansal admitted that OOH has somehow not undergone the kind of growth that it should have. According to Bansal, on an average basis, the OOH medium globally commands 7% of the annual advertising pie but its share in India is close to only 5.5% at the moment.

“Today, we are at Rs 3,000 crore. We should have been close to Rs 4,500 crore,” said Bansal, COO, Jagran Engage. Highlighting the differences between outdoor and other mediums such as digital, print and television, he noted that they were all “content-driven” whereas outdoor was primarily “location driven.”

Glorifying the unparallel influence of the medium, he added, “When we talk in this age about consumption of media through mobile handsets, television or print, nothing can beat a 40x20 billboard in terms of the impact which it creates in the consumer’s mind.”

Referring to a report published in The Times of India, Ola Cabs’ Media Director Ashish Bajaj emphasised that a huge amount of time is spent by people in traffic jams. “The average speed of cars in metros is only 11 kilometres per hour. That opens up a lot of opportunity for all of marketers,” he said.

Identifying OOH as an “always-on medium” for Ola Cabs, he argued that it has helped them immensely since their target audience and drivers are always on the road. At a time when people are spending as much as one hour and thirty minutes daily in braving the traffic scenario, he spoke of the impossibility of missing a 40x20 billboard.

Moving beyond metro cities

Lamenting that OOH has been treated as “a stepson of media”, Alok Gupta simultaneously criticised the mindset of certain agencies and clients which cause outdoor locations to be concentrated only around places like Ring Road and central or south Delhi. He hit out at those for whom outdoor was an “ego trip” meant simply to please promoters or higher management by showcasing outdoor advertisements on the route from their residence to the office.

“When you are planning a television campaign or a digital campaign or a radio campaign, it happens all over India but why not outdoor,” he asked. Comparing the difference in outdoor advertising between Mumbai and Delhi, he claimed that Mumbai must be having three times the number of campaigns in Delhi.

As per Graphisads Director, Gupta, the discrepancy of restricting outdoor advertising in Delhi to solely DMRC or select locations had to be done away with. He opined that FMCG products and automobiles were being sold all over the place and consumers came from different locations, therefore, OOH had to be broad-based in terms of locations.

Quoting the Prime Minister, he added, “When Mr Modi was elected in 2014, he announced grandly that for India to prosper, the government has to move out of Delhi. I honestly feel that if outdoor has to prosper then offices have to move out of Mumbai.” On the other hand, commending the efforts of the Union Government to build 100 smart cities across the country, Bansal described it as a “huge opportunity” to expand OOH media. He also held the construction of new airports as a positive indicator for OOH players.

Building a relationship between outdoor and technology    

Rajneesh Bahl, Founder & Director of Grey Media took the attention of the gathering towards the ironical relationship between technology and the outdoor industry. “Today, every hand has a screen but till date, there are very few agencies that have started investing into integration,” he stated. Hailing integration with technology as a great enabler, Bahl argued that it was essential for pushing forth OOH’s expansion.

In his opinion, most OOH agencies considered themselves to be a part of local media. Bahl insisted that it was high time that they went hyper-local with technology being the crucial difference maker. “We have developed certain applications wherein we recommend to our client how we can use digital and OOH together and give you hyper-local solution than only giving you a local solution,” he said.

Reebok India’s Kanika Mittal came out as the strongest proponent of technological integration on the panel. “When we speak about integrating digital and technology with outdoor, I think one of the key aspects of that would be now to develop tools that help a lot more in data analysis that can be churned out from an outdoor standpoint,” said Mittal, Director Brand Marketing & Communications at Reebok India.

According to Mittal, the focus should be on bringing together a client’s sales or consumer data with the available outdoor locations through technological tools so as to enable them to reach out to consumers in a more efficient manner. “Maybe we will see that the outdoor campaigns that come up are not just Ring Road-centric or not just western highway-centric but probably more relevant to the consumer as well as the sales potential,” she explained.

Despite 80% of the marketing spends going waste as a matter of principle, she argued that metrics at least ensured that the marketing spends were guided by “algorithms” premised on “historical data” thereby making the investment “solid” and “fool-proof”. With advertising revenues shifting from print and television to digital, she called for turning OOH from a static into an interactive medium wherein a consumer through a text message or tweet could enforce some kind of a change in a billboard which could be in the form of a new image or an updated number.

Taking outdoor campaigns to other mediums

Encouraging the OOH industry to think beyond traditional boundaries, Mittal urged them to invest into nurturing creative teams. “Outdoor agencies can really benefit from having small but really powerful creative teams that actually develop creative for outdoor campaigns and not just campaigns adapted to outdoor,” she said.

Supporting her suggestion, Bahl was quick to point out that OOH agencies need to gradually move from implementation based-OOH business to campaign-led OOH business. Recalling the words of a client, he stated that this particular person had succeeded in taking a digital campaign to other platforms.

He stressed that OOH should take a cue from digital campaigns which “run on print and television” and get ambitious in their pursuit of an implementation-led business model. Another idea that was brought to the table by Gupta was to the take the addictive influence of the outdoor media to young students. At present, Gupta found media schools lacking in course curriculum on OOH. “One of the major things that we can do, maybe media owners can come together and do, is get some curriculum onboard which can actually train new students and develop skills for them in the OOH segment,” he said.

e4m NEONS OOH Awards 2017 was sponsored by Capital Group, Times OOH, Laqshya Solutions, Graphisads, Orienta Cine Advertising, Alakh and 24 Frames Digital.

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