Bring out the billboards

Updated: Jan 4 2013, 02:34am hrs
From flash mobs to augmented reality, outdoor media will use new methods to ensure better customer engagement

Sanjay Pareek

Last year was marred by the European crash and with the overall world economy limping, clients had cut their ad spend and outdoor too was not spared. This must have been the first year in a long time when there has been a reduction in the head count in the OOH industry and assets with owners phone numbers have been seen more regularly than earlier years, more so in Mumbai than other markets.

Though outdoor was an area of concern, retail and activation business did get a fair share of growth, better than last year, in a sluggish economy. The major reason for the same is that a direct correlation to sales can be established through these media. But for outdoor, as there is no ROI (return on investment) equation or formula, it gets relegated to the position of a residual media rather than a planned media and is therefore overlooked at the time of budget cuts.

Media Research Users Council (MRUC) has embarked on a new Indian Outdoor Study (IOS) with a very competent team and, hopefully, resources, so that the outdoor industry can prove to brands that their investment yields result from outdoor media and it doesnt remain just emotional acceptance of outdoor media efficiency. 2013, we all hope, will be much better than 2012 and outdoor will see better traction with brands. 2013 looks bright for all the three businesses of out-of-home -- outdoor, retail and activation. Outdoor will improve and retail and activation will consolidate their positions.

Rural consumption is increasing in most product categories fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), consumer durables, insurance, two-wheelers and some more. A few years back, 50-60% of the outdoor budget was consumed in Mumbai and Delhi and 80% in the top 12 markets; there is a shift now with B and C category markets taking a relative large chunk of the business. The top 12 markets spend has reduced to 60% and it is the rest of the market that is benefitting from this. This trend is irreversible. Retail and activation business will also get traction because of rural consumption and business will grow exponentially.

The OOH industry will move up the value chain and will no longer be seen as a commodity. The IOS will be the most important contributor for the outdoor business, therefore, the team working on IOS should make it a point to release the measurement model next year. This coupled with the IOAA (Indian Outdoor Advertising Association) announcement of ADEX and online data of assets across markets will help improve the credibility of the outdoor media.

Technology will get acceptance in the OOH industry; augmented reality, blu-fi and Near Filed Communication (NFC) code, which help enhance interactivity with the customer, will be increasingly adopted thus ensuring more sticky eyeballs and engagement with the customer for better brand experience across retail, activation and outdoor.

Flash mobs will also gain more acceptance in the market as brands will use the same to engage youth, though the extent of their success will depend on whether they are able to get permissions from the local government bodies.

Another change that will happen, though slowly, that I foresee is that of the out-of-home media being treated as an independent media and the creative not adapted from the print or TV frame grab, but created specifically for out-of-home. Clients will force their creative agencies to come up with creative work tailored to the media, which will help improve stickiness and get the best out of this specialised media. These are the trends which will be seen in 2013 some frequently and some sporadically. However, I am sure all of them are here to stay and enhance the efficacy of out-of-home media.

The author is president of Percept Out of Home