Face off with Mauricio Sabogal, CEO, Kinetic Worldwide & Amit Sarkar, COO, Kinetic India
Mauricio Sabogal is the global chief executive of Kinetic Worldwide, the out-of-home (OOH) company of marketing communications holding company WPP Plc. Kinetic has been in the forefront of some innovative hi-tech OOH advertising including a 3D billboard for the Minions campaign in Germany and an invisible billboard in Grand Central, New York. Sabogal, who was in India recently, says outdoor advertising is increasingly moving to the centre of the media plan with social media actually amplifying the value of an OOH campaign. In this interview with FE Brandwagon’s Anushree Chandran, Sabogal along with Amit Sarkar, COO at Kinetic India, speak about the growth opportunities for Kinetic—both in and outside India and how OOH agencies need to capitalise on the opportunities thrown up by social media. Edited excerpts:
Could you comment on Kinetic’s global and Indian operations?
Mauricio Sabogal: The size of the OOH business is $45 billion worldwide. Kinetic has bought 10% of that, which makes us the biggest specialised agency in the world. The main markets are the US, the UK, China and emerging markets such as India. India in particular is a very high potential market for us. It provides 10% of our total billings.
Our priority is to evolve capabilities in our main markets. We have invested in companies related to technology — for instance, a partnership with DroneCast, which is a Philadelphia-based company that specialises in drone advertising and promotions. The plan is to expand soon to Middle East, particularly since our airport division is becoming very important. Dubai is critical for us in terms of traveller approach. We are expanding in geography and developing our services.
Amit Sarkar: We have had a good run in the last two-and-a-half years. Procurement of the right signage plays a crucial role today. Most of the work in the OOH category is in the area of buying and selling. We are high on both compliance and processes. We are winning a lot of new business, but not all of them use 100% of the gamut of services provided. Normally, we offer them 25-30% of our solutions, but in time, that figure goes up to 100% once they see the value we offer. The OOH business is pegged at R2000 crore. There is a large unorganised market that has not yet been tapped.
With metrics being a huge challenge, how do you circumvent it?
Sabogal: I come from Nielsen. In OOH, metrics are a lot more expensive than those for television. This is not a small sample of panelled homes. You need to have people on the move, monitoring billboards. For these metrics, 75% of the cost has to be paid by media owners and the rest by other stakeholders or research companies.
Sarkar: Metrics have been a huge problem for OOH for many decades now. But we have our own backchecks at play.
We have about 100 people who are on the move with geophones. You can click a picture of a billboard—it has real time co-ordinates and geo-tags—so that the marketer is assured the campaign has run.
As far as the industry metrics go, you need big investments. It cannot be done by an independent concessional agency alone. Also, there are complications. In Bangalore, you get a different audience in the same location in different time slots. A brand needs to know when to be present. The consumer’s behaviour is also changing rapidly.
Many young people today are health conscious and have stopped frequenting pubs.
Do you think that OOH has been overshadowed by social media?
Sabogal: OOH has moved to the centre of all advertising. Everything in media is flipping over, and putting us at the centre. Social media is in fact becoming an answer for us in terms of effectiveness. When you see posts becoming viral, you learn about the effectiveness of the ad campaign. For OOH, the amplification by social media is immense.
It’s also a part of our responsibility to capitalise on the opportunity.
Outdoor is increasingly moving to the centre of the media plan. Earlier, it was regarded as the complementary medium. Because of fragmentation and increasingly people being on the go, it is a critical part of the business.
What have been some of the innovative OOH campaigns by Kinetic?
Sabogal: There are a lot of things happening worldwide in the OOH industry such as a billboard that actually converts air into drinking water. We have used technology which can reproduce sounds from a billboard. You project images on a billboard and the music comes via your phone. We are using a new technology for airports called dynamic placing which combines econometrics with aviation data. We know which flight is coming from which gate.
If the flight is coming from China, the ads are in Chinese. We partnered with a company called Dronecast which is the first company using drones in advertising. The most impressive innovation it has done is to paint a billboard with a drone. It also created a digital rainbow using mist and lights.
Sarkar: Technology is great, but the application of it also depends on the evolution of the market. Activation can be just as powerful. For instance, for an anti-smoking campaign, we actually went to paan-beedi shops in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. We gave the store guy a fake cigarette which had an anti-smoking message. Also, there was work for Vodafone where gifts were distributed by Santas in metros. They held cookies in the shape of people, but with their arms and legs off. ‘Don’t text and drive’ was the message.
What are your projections for Kinetic?
Sabogal: In the next five years, we expect an explosion in digital OOH and an increase in quantity of investment in this area. We are treating digital OOH as a separate division. There are fantastic growth opportunities in emerging markets and India is one of them.
Sarkar: The digitisation of formats beyond airports is a huge opportunity. If you were to look at Cyber City in Gurgaon —it’s a big example of how we partnered effectively with real estate firms in monetising and designing the place. It has a large captive audience of office-goers. We have got corporate clients of various categories for affiliations and partnerships. Amex is a card partner across all restaurants there. It created content that it put out on screens such as discounts and coupons. We are talking to telecom partners for wi-fi provisions.