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Monitoring outdoor ads remains an issue

While the industry needs to come together to form a common body, some say monitoring has to be better in smaller cities and some feel geo-tagging can help

Archit Ambekar | Mumbai | August 3, 2016


Monitoring outdoor advertisements has been an issue for a while now. It is an issue in most of the media, apart from television, where a set body determines the statistics. But what makes monitoring in outdoor difficult is the fact that a lot of manual effort goes into it unlike in other forms where ads can be monitored via digital means.

Outdoor is yet to reach a stage where technology monitors the medium. There are a few outdoor monitoring agencies sending reports to clients and agencies. But a single body does not exist.

Some agencies are trying to bring in the best technology to monitor display ads. Most do their own monitoring while some use third-party reports. While geo-tagging can be used, some say it helps in planning and buying and not in monitoring. As the debate continues, spoke to industry veterans.

Go beyond metros

Shashi Sinha Shashi Sinha

According to Shashi Sinha, CEO, Laqshya Hyderabad Airport Media (a division of Laqshya Media Group), the need for real monitoring is beyond the metros. Monitoring agencies need to work in other cities apart from metros. Sinha thinks that since the client doesn’t travel to smaller towns, the real need lies in those towns, contrary to metros where the client is present.

On geo-tagging, Sinha doesn’t know what exactly geo-tagging does, unless if it has real-time photographs. Being a veteran in the space, Sinha feels that OOH is more of a municipality issue and it should have a national regulation than a state-wise regulation.

Need for unified monitoring body

The Rs 3,200-crore industry is currently growing at 15 per cent per annum, says the FICCI KPMG 2015-16 report. While that is a good sign, the industry needs to come together to have a unified monitoring body.

Mandeep Malhotra Mandeep Malhotra

Mandeep Malhotra, Founding Partner and CEO, The Social Street, too, thinks that monitoring is a concern as there is no specific benchmark or SLA in place. Malhotra added, “It is an additional cost, therefore the services are need-based.”

Malhotra strongly feels the industry needs to come together as they are collectively spending more for a service that should be provided hygienically for all campaigns.

Effective technology can bridge gap

Technology in India will be successfully used at a mass scale only if it is economically sustainable comparative to labour cost. One needs to remember that India is a market with economically available labour. There are far and beyond locations where the cost of media is lesser than the monitoring cost fortnightly. Effective technology can help bridge the need gap.

Nabendu Bhattacharyya Nabendu Bhattacharyya

Explaining further, Nabendu Bhattacharyya, CEO and Managing Director, Milestone Brandcom, said, “Monitoring as an issue is addressed quite well by the agency specialists and now it has moved to large metros as they are monitored almost daily with physical monitoring and same day reporting. There are third-party agencies that are monitoring up to 100 towns and reporting directly to clients. But yes, right now agencies are providing value-added service to clients. Agencies operating with thin margins can’t sustain the monitoring as per expectations of clients as the cost is huge. All agencies can’t afford to recruit third-party monitoring services unless there a sizeable agency specialist.”

Bhattacharyya says Milestone Brandcom uses GPS technology to monitor top 200 towns while its third-party agency does it in top 100 towns.

A huge amount of investment goes in providing GPS-enabled camera-cum-phone technology for monitoring. The server space and reporting back needs huge CAPEX and manpower depending on the frequency of monitoring required by clients.

Can geo-tagging help?

Having been in the outdoor monitoring space for about 18 years now, TJ Ragava, Founder and CEO, Time Outdoor Monitoring, said, “Geo-tagging will not help in monitoring. It helps in planning and buying sites.” Ragava too feels that industry bodies need to come together for measurement. While the clutter is huge in metros, he agrees that smaller towns need better monitoring.

Haresh Nayak Haresh Nayak

The case is different when it comes to Posterscope. Haresh Nayak, Regional Director, Posterscope Asia Pacific and Managing Director, Posterscope Group India, sheds light on how the agency uses three methods to monitor their sites. They first began monitoring eight years back. Their team used to click pictures of sites and send reports. It then realised the drawbacks of the system and outsourced an agency. But that too had the same drawback – no proper monitoring.

Nayak said that today the agency has an in-house monitoring with vendors via a mobile app that uploads the photo directly to the site along with the sites’ geo-tagged location. The second method the agency uses is third-party monitoring. For long-term clients such as Samsung, Hitachi and others, the sites are geo-tagged with cameras placed on the hoardings.

Need an industry body for monitoring

The Indian Outdoor Advertising Association (IOAA) and Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) are having discussions to create an industry body for monitoring. The talks are in advanced stage to offer a transparent solution to clients. In about a year’s time, the body should be taking shape.

While industry veterans agree that monitoring is an issue, it needs to be collectively addressed. With changing technology, the unanswered questions should be answered soon.

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