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Regulations in the OOH industry: Who will bell the cat?

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Regulations in the OOH industry: Who will bell the cat?

Much has been written about the burgeoning growth in the out-of-home (OOH) industry. Heavy investments are being made in the latest technology. However, the industry is marred by lack of proper regulations and guidelines in place, which make this growth amoebic at best. Some leading OOH industry players share their views on bringing in regulations, collections, dealing with government authorities and more…

Regulations, recognition & collections

According to Anirban Ghosh, Business Director, MOMS Outdoor Media Solutions Pvt Ltd, “Regulation in outdoor advertising is still a distant dream and we certainly are looking forward to have them in place. There is a Memorandum of Understanding between the Delhi Outdoor Advertisers Association (DOAA) and outdoor media companies framed up and signed just couple of weeks back, and hopefully, it will clear certain issues. As far as Mumbai and other major metros and towns are concerned, we do not have anything in place like this, which, I feel, is extremely important.”

Commenting on the problems faced in collecting outstandings from clients, Ghosh added, “A couple of months back, the Indian Outdoor Advertising Association (IOAA) had got involved in framing a Credit Policy, proposed to be implemented on the same lines as the INS or IBF Credit Policy, which will enable the entire industry to collect their outstandings from agencies and clients. Delay in payment collections and the lack of an effective mechanism to expedite the process has long been an industry-wide problem faced by all players – old, new, big, small, local and national.”

“Regulations and collections are but just two issues that the industry has to tackle collectively. There are a whole host of other issues that can only be addressed with a concerted effort,” he added.

Enumerating these other issues, Ghosh said, “The primary objective is to get recognition for the OOH industry and promote best practices amongst the members, understand how OOH can play a better role in the city infrastructure and sky line, enforce self-discipline amongst the members, create better synergy between media owners and advertisers and agencies, monitor for fair practices, control and regulate payment structures, and also to bring back the respectable status of the OOH industry.”

He asserted that individual media owners and agencies needed to realise that the progress of the entire industry was the surest and the only way for their own progress. “Hence, we all need to recognise the benefits, overcome our completely unfounded fears to get together and fight with a unity to restore the balance in our industry,” Ghosh added.

The advantages of regulations

Nabendu Bhattacharya, Founder, Milestone Brandcomm, too, stressed that regulations were important to control the industry. He said, “Media owners need to operate within guidelines from a long-term perspective and avoid future bigger issues where a regulatory body or the court takes stringent steps. This is to safeguard against the fly-by-night operators that enter the field with the short-term objective of making quick bucks, as a result of which the whole industry suffers.”

Citing the examples of the US and Europe, Bhattacharya said that there the industry was highly regulated in terms of size, aesthetic beauty of the structures, the structures’ stability, standardised formats and so on, even as the association body strictly monitored the do’s and don’ts . “Similar rules and stringent regulations need to be put in place in India by the appropriate authorities and a common industry body for the benefit of all stakeholders. And where the regulatory bodies are not strong enough to impose such controls, media owners themselves should implement self regulations. All in all, I am in favour of regulations,” he added.

Agreeing with both Ghosh and Bhattacharya, Mandeep Malhotra, Senior Vice President - OOH, Mudra MAX, observed that while the OOH industry was extremely dynamic and continued to invest in and invent the latest in technology, certain regulations were required. He added, “Needless to say, the industry has matured in terms of services provided to the advertisers, thus, automatically creating a need to be innovative with campaigns and activation, and to break the clutter in different product categories.”

Commenting on the scenario in Delhi, Malhotra said, “Fortunately, Delhi has witnessed the formation of the Delhi Outdoor Advertising Association (DOAA) with 27 members, including Pioneer Publicity, Adwel Advertising, Selvel Media, JCDecaux, Parivartan, Jagran Engage, Graphisads and Greenline, among others. While it has never been easy to organise an industry such as outdoor, it is now a strong body and aims to work towards betterment of outdoor practices. Certain practices like the formation of a Dispute Resolve Committee (DRC) that decided that the minimum duration of campaigns would be 15 days, and also resolved long pending payment issues, has helped regularise the industry.”

Speaking about similar steps taken in other parts of the country, he said, “Chennai Municipality has maintained a strong position and has managed to curtail the hoardings. Mumbai, too, has strict norms, a Heritage committee, Coastal Regulatory Zone and ceiling on the size of hoardings across various wards. A couple of clients, who wanted to use neon signs in the traffic signal colours of red, amber and green, had to follow the guidelines of the Traffic Police and desist from using those colours.”

Tackling municipal authorities

Mukesh Gupta, MD, Graphisads, too, affirmed that policies regarding outdoor was helping the industry grow.

Taking up a different issue, Gupta said, “For some time now, we have been complaining to the municipal authorities regarding the problem of unauthorised media. While we put up only authorised media and pay the civic authorities the required license fee and maintain them all through the year, there are some agencies that put up media without any approval whatsoever and sell to the clients at a very cheap rate. On the other hand, we charge the clients on the basis of the license fee paid and other out-of-pocket expenses involved in maintenance of these media. That’s why our media is comparatively higher that the unauthorised media.”

Continuing further, he said, “Based on our complaints, the civic authorities took necessary action and ordered the removal of unauthorised media and protected our media against such onslaughts. Today, we can say that there is no unauthorised media in Delhi, thanks to the strong steps taken by the MCD.”

“However, on the flip side,” Gupta lamented, “Most of the time municipal authorities do not always listen to the problems addressed to them by various agencies. The authorities have their own way of dealing with things and interpret the rules in a way that suits their system even though it might be detrimental for our outdoor business. They know our demand/ suggestion is genuine, but they take their own time and discretion to implement on them. What is ironical is that there have been instances where the authorities have lost precious revenue, but still their response, most of the time, has been either delayed or lopsided.”

The industry will is there and there have been some steps taken towards bringing in more order and stability in the OOH industry. Steps like the formation of the Delhi Outdoor Advertising Association will go a long way in addressing various issues of the industry. Now, the government authorities, too, need to be proactive and protect and support the OOH industry, which can generate respectable revenues.


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