Digital Signage Asia 2008: The 'ten point agenda' by Punitha Arumugam

By Sapna Nair , afaqs!, Mumbai | In OOH News | October 06, 2008
Punitha Arumugam, group CEO, Madison Media, gave the audience a ten point agenda for the digital signage business to take off

Punitha & #BANNER1 & # Arumugam, group chief executive officer, Madison Media, set the stage on fire at the Digital Signage Asia 2008 conference by revealing her ten point agenda for digital signage to emerge as a preferred medium in the minds of the advertisers and media planners. She stated that while digital signage is an emerging medium, not enough income is coming out of it. Delving deeper into the problem, she did a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis.

Beginning her presentation, Arumugam emphasised that television should not be perceived as a benchmark. "While there are 10,000 digital signage screens, there are 130 million television sets. Hence, to compare the reach of television to that of digital screens is futile and irrelevant," she said.

Even in terms of holding the attention of consumers, she claimed that television did a much better job. "Avoid any TV benchmark," was her first word of advice.

Punitha Arumugam
She compared digital signage with traditional out of home media, which is worth approximately Rs 1,500 crore, has no research tools to gauge its effectiveness, but still has the most inventory sold out. She suggested that digital should apply the same fundamentals as traditional outdoor and not bring too much science into the medium.

Next, she said that digital outdoor players need to eye the below-the-line budgets of the advertiser and not the above-the-line outlays. "While ATL and BTL businesses are worth the same, ATL spends are backed by research and data. However, most BTL decisions are prompted by gut feel. Hence, the client is willing to experiment with the latter," she explained.

The key is to chase the BTL monies and not fight for the ATL budget. While making this point, she also remarked that since this medium is at the bottom of the priority list of media planners, the client should be dealt with (and not the agency), leaving the audience in splits with her confession.

Arumugam said that OOH players should not follow the practice of conducting research and presenting it to clients. Her rationale was that since OOH is only a part of a multi-media plan, it is difficult to isolate the rub off from other media. Moreover, she said that all the data gathered information about the medium and not the brand advertised.

She cited the example of TAM, which gauges the efficacy of television as a medium, and does not say anything about which brand was most visible. Likewise, relating OOH research to a brand is a futile effort and better left for the client.

Outdoor players could take a lesson or two from FM radio stations which have expanded their portfolios in order to maximise revenue by getting into activation. "A radio station and activation can connect with the consumer at a local level, which is exactly what clients want these days," she said. Enlarging the advertising pie by going a little beyond the confined space, and by localising and magnifying, revenue could be maximised.

'Explore cross-pollination' was her next idea. Digital screens have the advantage of being everywhere the consumer is, and provide contextual and convenient deals to the advertiser. Arumugam was of the opinion that not much was being done to leverage this strength. "Instead of saying that you can adapt the TV campaign onto the screen, position the medium differently to the client and play up the difference," she suggested.

She shared a trick of the trade to trick the client's mind. 'Anything rare goes at a premium compared to anything available in abundance' was her rationale. "Play up gimmicks to make your medium seem desirable by employing tactful sales and creating an artificial demand," she stated.

Another important point raised by her was for the digital outdoor community to form an industry body. The amount of cost incurred by the media owners in terms of paying for screens, rent and content creation was making it a non viable business model. According to her, forming industry guidelines and reviewing the norm of the business was imperative.

Leveraging the anytime, anywhere medium by making content relevant to the consumer, rather than just disseminating information, was the key. "What are you doing to make the consumers look at the screen?" she questioned, adding that it is the content that attracts and some effort and mind needs to be applied to create unique beneficial content.

Finally, she said that the power of a 'no' can take this medium far higher. 'You get what you believe', taking this phrase seriously and not reducing prices under pressure is a better idea than bending before it. "Leverage the power of a no," she said, ending her presentation, which was followed by an orchestrated applause from the gathering.

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