Mumbai blackout draws mixed reactions from outdoor agencies

By , agencyfaqs! | In Advertising | March 07, 2006
While some outdoor specialists feel that the blackout is temporary, others say the power cut will lead to big losses for the outdoor industry

It has been a & #BANNER1 & # week since the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) sounded the warning bell for the outdoor industry in Mumbai. It announced a ban on glow-sign hoardings, neon signs and kiosks during peak evening hours - 5-11 pm - for the next three months. This blackout in the city that never sleeps will surely have some repercussions for the outdoor industry.

Sanjeev Hajela, vice-president, Primesite, voices his concerns. He says, "Mumbai is an extremely important market for big brands and outdoor is an important constituent in the media mix. This power cut on illuminated hoardings will lead to an estimated exposure loss of 40 per cent, as the noticeability is highest during the evening."

This is especially so as the traffic flow in Mumbai is linear in nature, with the working populace moving from the suburbs to the town during the morning and vice versa in the evening.

However, Pratap Bose, managing director, Kinetic, is not too concerned about the setback, terming it as a 'temporary phase'. "The outdoor industry is resourceful enough to cope with the situation," he shrugs. "In the past, too, the outdoor industry has passed through such lean phases by using generators or solar panels. I think this so-called setback for the outdoor industry is part of a larger issue. Factories and industries will suffer much more from the power cut."

Bose estimates a maximum loss of 10-15 per cent for the outdoor industry.

Soumitra Bhattacharyya, CEO, Madison Outdoor Media Services, goes a step further and insists that the outdoor industry won't suffer any losses. According to him, the situation will work itself out; Mumbai had faced a similar situation last summer, when the power supply for illuminated hoardings was cut for about a month.

"At that time, marketers wanted a discount on the rates for evening sites," says Bhattacharyya. "The suppliers of the sites compensated with generators and also extended the display period by a couple of days. This time, too, I'm sure there will be little or no reduction in the rates."

According to Bhattacharyya, what is most likely to happen is a slight change in the media mix, which will include a greater use of alternate media such as bus shelters, multiplexes, touch-point marketing (such as station branding for local train travellers) and mobile hoardings.

However, Hajela is of the opinion that marketers will definitely demand a reduction in the rates of evening sites.

Sanjay Shah, COO, Starsight India, agrees with this opinion. Shah says, "The traffic movement in Mumbai goes on right up till 12 pm. If generators are not put up, the losses will be around 30-40 per cent for the outdoor industry. But if they are used, then this figure may drop to 10 or 15 per cent."

But Hajela of Primesite says generators are not a feasible option because they cause high carbon dioxide emissions, which will lead people to try alternative means.

On the possibility of a boom in mobile hoardings, Shah of Starsight India responds, "The use of mobile hoardings is a tendered activity. The number of mobile vehicles has been pre-fixed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. Therefore, the number of mobile hoardings cannot be increased now."

But he points out that mobile hoarding rates may rise by another 10 per cent or so, as a result of the ban on illuminated hoardings.

As far as the increased usage of morning sites vis--vis evening sites is concerned, Shah feels it all boils down to the pedigree of the brand being advertised. "For instance, a liquor brand or a television channel, which mainly advertises on evening sites, will probably suffer as a result of this ban," he says. "But a financial service brand, or a newspaper one, which obviously prefers morning sites, will not really be affected."

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