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Dipstick: Why Indian OOH agencies are lagging behind in digital innovation

Though the future is digital, it seems our outdoor advertising agencies are a little wary of digital innovation. Industry veterans explain the reason behind it

The OOH advertising sector in India is one of the main contributors to the growth of advertising. And along with its online counterpart, it has changed the market dynamics of the advertising industry. It has also given completion to traditional media such as print and TV, which has led advertisers to focus on OOH as a medium for higher growth.

Today, outdoor advertising is not just restricted to billboards but new options such as transit media and mall kiosks. Digital media has also come up with a variety of options for the advertisers to choose from. Businesses are looking at purchasing advertisement space out of different options available for more business impact.

In order to make the ads more creative and targeted, the outdoor industry has come up with some ‘digital transformation’ as well. Static billboards are getting competition from digital counterparts. Though we have seen changes now and then, Indian outdoor advertising agencies are still lagging behind in digital innovation and the reason behind it is deep and fundamental.

BestMediaInfo.com asked industry experts about the lack of digital innovation in Indian OOH agencies and the main problem behind it.

Nabendu Bhattacharyya

Nabendu Bhattacharyya, MD, Milestone Brandcom

Close to 95% of OOH formats in India include traditional billboards, bus Q shelters, pole kiosks, bridge panels, gantries, buses, trains, trams, metros, airport media, mall media, etc. Of this only the airport medium allows digital displays as per law. The authorities don’t allow digital/video display on the streets and hence you wouldn’t see such display on Indian roads unlike abroad -- barring a few LED displays in Kolkata, etc., in slide show formats

It is largely allowed in closed environments, viz. airports, and such displays are seen more at the airport’s T3 and T2 terminals. A few more can be seen in cafes, hospitals, residential buildings and corporate parks in smaller formats and in a few malls.

Now are these closed environment LED/digital walls used creatively? Yes, here I find there is potential lacuna by creative custodian of brands. They need to be more creative unlike abroad where the medium is used to its maximum potential.

Digital display in India is restricted by guidelines and that’s the primary issue. As a result, it’s not got enough emphasis in terms of building content from creative folks. So media-owning stakeholders need to approach government authorities with examples of other countries to allow digital display on Indian streets. Once it becomes mainstream OOH media, I guess automatically creative and engagement possibilities open up.

Till then, our creative minds need to create some Cannes Lions-winning ideas around airport digital displays.

Atul Shrivastava

Atul Shrivastava, Group CEO, Laqshya Media Group

Digital out-of-home is transforming the face of outdoor advertising worldwide. According to the Warc Expenditure Report, DOOH claimed a 31% share of total out-of-home ad-spends in 2015 and it is all set to rise to 40% in 2017. Though the medium is constantly growing worldwide, the scenario in India is different. In fact, Laqshya was one of the few companies to start the digital trend in India by installing smart screens at one of our concessions, the namely Hyderabad International Airport. I feel that while it is simpler to run the campaigns on digital units, the challenge is the upfront investment, which this medium calls for. Maintenance has a recurring cost, which in any case is applicable for every medium, but slightly higher for digital formats. Due to all these constraints, the growth rate is very minimalistic to date.

The possibility is endless because it opens up a host of services for the industry that still struggles with ROI and audience measurement issues. Digital displays are effective at identifying audience (gender recognition, gaze-tracking and vehicle recognition), enabling more precise targeting. Cost is a major concern along with other restrictions in the municipal by-laws particularly when it comes to open spaces, so we are introducing and promoting digital OOH within the ambit of Govt. rules and regulations in ambient space.

Anil K Nair

Anil K Nair, CEO and Managing Partner, Digital L & K Saatchi & Saatchi

Outdoor as we all know is a very significant and impactful medium in the Indian context. Strangely we have not seen too much of a digital makeover for the same. Internationally, there are many examples of digitally infused creative outdoor solutions from leading brands such as British Airways, O2 and Financial Times. These allow for interactions and data capture, for contextual outdoor ad serving and most critically proximity interactions. As it is evident, we as a nation are still leagues away from the best-in-class digital outdoor case studies, given that execution and experience play a huge role in success. Till then, we will have to be content with a few one-off surprises in closed door places such as malls and cinemas.

Shantanu Sirohi

Shantanu Sirohi, COO, Interactive Avenues

The opportunities in digital OOH are still limited as digital displays in India have not proliferated. They could be subject to pilferage, and are therefore restricted to secure environments such as airports, metros and malls. The OOH companies that do not focus much on digital innovation either lack the digital expertise and understanding or focus more on traditional OOH, which is where the meat of their business currently lies. Sometimes big agency groups are seen ignoring the rise of digital media over the last decade and then beefing up capabilities through costly acquisitions. Having said that, there is considerable innovation using digital technologies that can be seen where the environments allow for it.

The future lies in rapidly integrating all media and forms of communication to deliver a seamless experience to the consumers. Agencies’ ability to succeed in delivering to this promise depends upon the various specialist teams collaborating on solutions rather than operating in silos.

Mandeep Malhotra

Mandeep Malhotra, Founding Partner and CEO, The Social Street

There is a difference between digital and electronics and in India, there is relationship with electronics and not digital. There are restrictions, certain court cases, court judgement passed about this and that is why it is not growing as much as it is expected to grow. Future is digital for sure. There is fairly decent ROI on digital/electronic medium for all these networks that exist for screen. It is growing also.

And the reason why digital is not growing so far is that the authority has not given approval on various platforms. Entrepreneurs don’t get funding from banking bodies and they don’t have that sort of deep pockets that’s precisely the reason.

Nomit Joshi

Nomit Joshi, Marketing Head, Gionee India

OOH is a new thing and it will need time to pick up. It is majorly unorganised in India and it adds as a bottleneck where the agencies sell media and not solution to the clients.

There is a huge potential and merit in merging digital with OOH because it adds the interaction piece very effectively and it takes the communication at a personal level. As I mentioned earlier, this will take time and it will be visible more on the ground as soon as the industry organises it.

Siddharth Banerjee

Siddharth Banerjee, EVP, Marketing, Vodafone India

OOH has its own value in the media plan and allows for more localised branding. With the help of emerging technologies, OOH innovations have visually improved by leaps and bounds. The sheer size and scale allows for it to create impact. Production timelines are much shorter compared to other mediums, therefore it is easier to mount a campaign at a short notice.

Vodafone has been at the forefront of driving digital innovation through its campaigns and has been an early adapter of technology in creative OOH. Recently, with the help of emerging technologies, digital innovations are becoming an important part of OOH advertising.

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