Will DOOH lead the way for outdoor advertising post COVID?

OOH industry leaders spell out the potency of DOOH and how they think outdoor ad players should realign themselves in the new world order

e4m by Noel Dsouza
Updated: May 22, 2020 1:27 PM
DOOH COVID-19

COVID has put on hold nearly all forms of outdoor advertising because of the restrictions on travel and work from home emerging as the new norm. So, what does the Out-of-Home industry do in such a scenario? How does it plan to rejuvenate and make a comeback in the ‘new world’?

Most industry leaders believe it is the time for OOH to embrace its digital arm as brands who were clients of OOH agencies are gradually realizing the power of DOOH systems. With the lockdown in place in most parts of the country, industry experts say it’s time to re-evaluate the OOH medium.

Speaking of the power of DOOH, a closer look reveals how once integrated with mobile, the data garnered could help the players better their service or product and customize the messaging as per consumer preferences.

The silver lining

COVID has given the OOH industry time to realign with the new world order, says Deepak Kumar, Executive Vice President, ROOH, Dentsu Aegis Network. “It’s a good time to re-evaluate the current offerings and leverage the power of digital like never before. DOOH is still in its early stages, any progress and refinement is the right thing to do. However, brand receptivity towards the medium has been very encouraging. Besides fine-tuning the capabilities, we should invest time with brands and demonstrate the true potential of DOOH.”

Pointing out the emergence of new possibilities for the media was Jayesh Yagnik, CEO, MOMS Outdoor Media Solutions. “This pandemic has certainly put pDOOH and DOOH systems at the forefront, making the need to embrace them as the new normal at a faster pace than ever before.”

What gives pDOOH an edge is the medium being backed by data and technology, making it both addressable and accountable. Gulab Patil, Founder, CEO, Lemma, states that the lockdown has brought to light the true advantage of pDOOH screens which the advertisers can and must put to use post the lockdown. “Real-time data, robust planning tools and advanced targeting parameters will enable advertisers to shift focus on specific audience segments, rather than screen buying. As advertisers get thrifty with their ad spends, data-driven decisions will take the centrestage and audience-buying will be the new norm, subsequently making pDOOH a more economical and cost-efficient medium to consider, post the lockdown,” Patil explained.

For Atul Shrivastava, CEO, Laqshya Media Group, the audience metric system will be key in helping clients get the optimal ROI from a cross-section of sites, which will indeed have an increasing proportion of DOOH. “Post lockdown, we are planning to offer more innovative and strategic solutions to our clients, rather than simply selling space. In this venture, DOOH and pDOOH will help as they offer interaction, engagement, and ROI. DOOH will give a boost to transit media once travel restrictions are lifted,” he added.

Gautam Bhirani, Managing Director, EyeTalk Media Ventures stated, "Media channels that can provide flexibility, accountability and connect with audiences in context will have have an edge. DOOH is likely to emerge as the biggest disruptor and will help the OOH advertising community in times like these. As lockdown eases out in phases and more people are seen out of home DOOH will play a very big role in keeping the public aware and informed by broadcasting public safety measures and defining the 'new normal' across congregation touchpoints this will bring context to the medium."

He added, "For OOH, transforming from square feet-location cost methodology to audience-traffic based pricing model backed by actionable audience insights quantifying COVID induced lower traffic and mobility is going to be the need of the hour and a step in the right direction."

The Rough Edges

Since most DOOH screens are in ambient locations, industry players say the medium is likely to witness a slow start owing to restrictions and paranoia around COVID. According to Kumar, “Once consumer sentiments stabilize it would have an edge in terms of reaching the right audience at the right locations. Creative optimization and contextual messaging is expected to help a brand with targeted communication. I am certain there would be a scramble by brands to be closest to their consumers. DOOH will have the advantage of hosting multiple brands on the same media. Reach maximization within the right TG would be a pressure on the planning team while media owners will have to ensure that their screens are in the best of the health to manage, in all probability, 100% inventory utilization.”

Many players spoke about there being a general acceptance that things will not just go “back to normal” and that the current situation has repercussions that are here to stay. With most companies having digitized themselves to survive, many practices like Work From Home will stay on and consumer movement in the real world will evolve in line with this, experts said.

Mehul Mandalia, Co-Founder & Head of Demand, Moving Walls, shared further on measurement practices. “Before even considering automation platforms of programmatic technologies for outdoor advertising, both the buy-side and the sell-side will have to adopt measurement practices that provide information around what the channel actually delivers - views, reach, target audiences, impact, recall, and so on.”

“When such information is available at a market level, it then makes sense to use technologies for planning, buying, verification of delivery, and campaign analysis to grow advertiser confidence in the medium. After all, it is important to acknowledge that brands don't pay for locations or for traffic. They invest in advertising to drive results,” Mandalia further said.

Charanjeet Arora, Co-CEO, Kinetic India shared that OOH is an extremely labour-intensive industry. "Without the manpower to oversee the installations, executing any kind of on-ground static media is a task. If there is one thing that the current situation has reiterated, it is that generating demand for any kind of product, except essentials, will now become a challenge. This is because our consumers that were earlier used to mobile social life, have now become confined to social distancing', he shares.

The Way Ahead

“Automated DOOH media buying, including pDOOH, is the final frontier of the digital marketing ecosystem,” says Ramana Siddhartha, Head-Business Development (India), Moving Walls.

There is a lot of buzz around this medium, attracting advertising spends from technology-based remote businesses, FMCG companies, and OTT players, among others, he said.

“Static too will remain a force to reckon with, given the scale and reach of the medium across the country, appealing to large corporations across sectors,” Siddhartha pointed out.

He said that similar to the way in which still formats, such as banner advertising, have thrived along with video advertising on online platforms, static and Digital OOH advertising will also complement each other. “We are utilizing the current downtime to further accelerate the efforts of agencies and media owners by enabling them to ramp up their location data-led automated media buying capabilities for both DOOH and traditional,” Siddhartha added.

Arora summed it up: "The best solution is going digital as it can be operated remotely, using technology and the pre-installed screens across locations, that can be converted into a network. To maintain consistency in communications, ensuring brand visibility, and securing brand recall, pDOOH will work wonders if brand, agencies, and media partners work together as one team! It’s an investment that we must undertake today, to ensure a basic ROI, post lockdown."

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