OOH industry: In search of one currency

Even as outdoor players develop their own measurement systems, a universal currency to measure reach is still awaited, contend practitioners and advertisers

OOH industry: In search of one currency

A FICCI-KPMG report on the media and entertainment sectors released in March 2013 pegged the OOH industry in India at around Rs 1,823 crore (2012). Growing at a CAGR of 8.39 per cent, marginally higher than its growth since 2006, the sector is projected to touch Rs 2,727 crore by 2017. This growth rate could be higher, if there was a universal currency in place for the medium, contend industry practitioners and advertisers.

Harjaap Singh Mann, founder and CEO, Proof of Performance Data Services, admits that despite projected growth, the medium is struggling with the issue of a universal measurement currency.

Currently, Indian OOH players also follow TAB (Traffic Audit Bureau), Route and Geomex – a few of the global currencies that exist. Emphasising the need for universal measurement currency, Haresh Nayak, MD, Posterscope Group India, noted, “Regulating a universal measurement system will help in the growth of the industry as well as it will add confidence in the media.”

Current metrics

Over the past few years, the industry leaders have been demanding and hoping for a measurement system. Pawan Bansal, CEO, Jagran Engage, reflected, “We all want OOH to be measurable, but to give a deadline as to when it will be reality is difficult to say as of now.”

Most OOH agencies in India do have measurement systems of their own. Nayak explained, “Every agency has a different industry tool with which they get an approximate reach. We too research on the measuring tools and based on a quarterly research, we choose that particular measurement tool.”

Bansal added that in their effort to sell media, the ‘more ambitious’ media owners and agencies have some data (proprietary) which they ‘use randomly’. He added, “This generally gives an idea on the approximate traffic count. Unlike broadcast and print mediums, the OOH measurement matrix is a rather challenging one because there is no census on the media vehicle universe in India. This is further made difficult as media owners are reluctant to share details about the media owned. A study by IOS (Indian Outdoor Survey) was supposed to kick off a couple of years ago which unfortunately didn’t happen. Recently IOAA (Indian Outdoor Advertising Association) is known to be spearheading the initiative to put a mechanism in place.”

Atul Shrivastav, COO, Laqshya Media, added, “The only recognised effort was made by MRUC (Media Research Users Council), named IOS. This was sponsored by leading OOH companies including Laqshya Media. But this could not be expanded beyond Mumbai.”

Mandeep Malhotra, president, head, DDB MudraMax, underlined that the biggest challenge (and at the same time, an opportunity) for the industry, is that there is no entry barrier. “Today, if you have as less as Rs 25,000, you can become an OOH player. There are only seven or eight leading agencies and in the absence of a universal measuring system, all the measuring systems are successful and unsuccessful same time,” he said.

OOH – the least preferred media for advertisers?

Malhotra noted that while having entrepreneurs in this medium is a good thing, it hampers the growth of the industry with respect to the pie of advertisers, which according to him is not growing.

Harneet Singh Rajpal, VP- marketing, Dominos Pizza India, said that the preferred media for his brand is television, followed by digital. “We don’t do a lot of out of home advertising. We only use OOH when we enter new cities to create a buzz,” he said. Explaining why OOH is the least preferred media for the company, he said, “This media is very qualitative. The reliability remains a question mark. We don’t even know if the rate charged to us is justifiable.”

According to Rajpal, OOH contributes to one per cent of their total marketing spend and the only way forward for this industry is to have established national players. He said, “This medium is unorganised and is distributed amongst small vendors.”

While HDFC Life follows a 360-degree marketing approach, Sanjay Tripathy, senior EVP - head marketing, products and direct channels, said, “The outdoor medium is a high-impact, cost-effective medium to reach out to the consumers - a medium with a multiplier effect. In the past 10 years, time spent out of home by an average Indian has increased by 25 per cent. So it becomes very important to make your presence felt to the customer and since this space is extremely cluttered, being innovative is what makes a mark in the mind of the customers.” He emphasised that his brand’s advertising plan is not media-driven but campaign-driven.

Asked about the absence of a measurement currency, Tripathy said, “Outdoor as an industry is still in a nascent stage. It is highly unorganised and there are no concrete ways to measure its efficacy. Most of the good OOH agencies have devised individual mechanisms to measure success of the campaign. But due to lack of a standard measurement system, campaigns are evaluated in relative terms. To create a successful campaign we consider multi-disciplinary approach and finally it comes down to a mix of using the available data well, understanding the consumer behaviour and personal experience over the years. We create specified measurement matrix as per the campaign’s requirement. We analyse the behavioural pattern to identify the touch points, where we can get the maximum attention.”

Growth of OOH

Commenting on the growth of the industry, Tripathy said, “In the current scenario, the key requirement of OOH medium is a standardised measuring tool to justify spending in terms of RoI. Also there is a need of introduction of better technology and innovation to break the cluttered presence.”

According to Tripathy, digital OOH has provided new touch points to marketers. “It is still experimenting and evolving. So, currently it serves more as a support medium to the main campaign. With the kind of control digital provides to a marketer, it can play a vital role in coming times,” he said, adding that constant innovation and making it more interactive is the way forward for OOH.

As the industry hopes for universal measurement currency, Proof of Performance Data Services (PoP) introduced ‘Visibility Ratings’ to reach the target audience ‘at lower costs’. The planning tool provides a rating for each hoarding based on multiple parameters such as visibility of the media in milliseconds, length and width of media, visibility distance in meters, angle from the road, locational considerations (moving traffic or near an intersection), and traffic, among others. PoP has on its agenda a mechanism to capture a rating for each asset that shall lead to rating for a campaign.

On being asked about the measurement affecting the industry growth, Maan said, “There is no way of knowing the RoI as there is no measurability in OOH. This is the reason for OOH having the lowest percentage share as compared to other advertising media. Whenever research has been carried out in any part of the world, market share of OOH has improved. The PoP tools and platform will bring the much needed measurement and accountability to the industry and it will encourage brands to spend more in OOH media.”

He added, “In fact lot of  advertisers who do not traditionally spend on outdoor have informed PoP that on the strength of these tools they are willing to put back their faith in OOH. One of the main reasons why some large advertisers do not spend heavily in the OOH space is the inherent lack of measurement in this medium.”

While industry veterans are aware of the ‘Visibility Ratings’ tool, it might take time for a universally accepted OOH currency to be put into practice in India.

Laqshya’s Shrivastav surmised, “The only way forward is to have the probable OTS (opportunity to see) for the media on a particular stretch of the roads in any city. This can be determined by the number of passengers or pedestrians passing through the stretch. Therefore, actual traffic count is the only proposition, which can give an indicative figure in this regard. Once this data is ready, it’ll get accepted. However, this can be done for top cities only, depending upon the priority of the agency, which facilitates the exercise. This too only will decide the time frame for this tool.”

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3 October 2014