2009: How Delhi geared up for an unprecedented transformation out-of-home

By Rohit Nautiyal , afaqs!, New Delhi | In OOH News | January 08, 2010
Despite reeling under the slowdown, 2009 was the year of expansion plans for the Capital, which has its eyes set on becoming a market leader in the coming year

From being tagged as a not-so-professional market by clients over the years, to being the second largest market for OOH in the country, Delhi has come a long way. And despite the slowdown in 2009, the city's OOH stakeholders have put a brave face and are set with plans for 2010 -- the year of the Commonwealth Games, and a year that has the potential to change the face of outdoor business in the Capital.

Hardly a background

& #BANNER1 & #The genesis of the outdoor business in Delhi is as old as the '60s, when hoardings were the only option available and owners used paint to put up the ads. Sunil Vasudeva, director, Pioneer Publicity, remembers, "I joined the business about 35 years ago; then, the largest hoarding available was 20'x10'. Sixty per cent of the business happened directly with clients and the rest through agencies."

Selvel Media and Hindustan Publicity were other big players then.

From the '70s to the '90s, hoardings mushroomed all across Delhi. Things got so out of hand that in 1997, the Supreme Court banned hoardings on roads, holding them to be hazardous and stating that the safety of road users was paramount. The outdoor business in Delhi literally breathed its last after that decision.

By the next decade, however, after much delay and approvals, in 2007, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) put in place an outdoor policy for the Capital.

Another development that happened by 1996 was the arrival of vinyl as a display option, replacing the traditional paint.

The year 2000 onwards, Delhi grew as a market with development in the city's infrastructure; especially the expansion of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and plans to develop expressways in Delhi-NCR.

Toying with rules

If MCD is there to put a policy in place, some industry stakeholders are ready to misconstrue the guidelines in their interest. The year 2009 saw a sudden rise of hoardings in the skyline of some areas of south Delhi. The outdoor policy allows wall wraps (a structure that uses softer and lighter material than a hoarding) on buildings; but to MCD's surprise, hoardings mushroomed on buildings close to roads.

To play it safe, a wall was raised behind these hoardings by the owners, qualifying these structures to pass off as wall wraps. Some people from the industry are of the opinion that this would not have been possible, without the complicity of the authorities.

To deal with this menace, MCD now has a team of 25 commandos in place, who will be assigned the task of bringing down illegal ads, without any dependence on the Delhi Police. Amiya Chandra, additional deputy commissioner, MCD says, "There will be zero tolerance approach and we will crack down hard on illegal ads. On the other hand, we have always promoted legal ads and ads that appeal rather than hammer."

Giving the agencies' perspective, Mandeep Malhotra, senior vice-president, Mudra Max, tells afaqs! "The clutter of hoardings in south Delhi is certainly an eyesore. At the same time, there are some neat formats like pole ad displays in the market area of South Extension. The media owners can focus on developing such formats that will add value in the long run."

The rise of bus shelters

Thanks to the tenders floated by MCD in the past few years, Delhi now has a huge number of state-of-the-art stainless steel bus shelters. JCDecaux and Parivartan, the OOH division of Jindal Stainless, are two of the biggest players in this segment with 197 (in Central Delhi) and 200 (mostly in South Delhi) functional shelters, respectively. Both the agencies have cleaning vans for day-to-day maintenance of these shelters. Also, close to 50 bus shelters are present on the Bus Route Transit (BRT) corridor from Siri Fort to Delhi Gate.

The year 2009 saw several innovations on bus shelters. JCDecaux executed innovations on MUPI, a free standing display unit placed close to a bus shelter, for clients such as PepsiCo and STAR Plus; and most recently, a water innovation for Limca.

Parivartan, in association with outdoor agencies, got into innovative use of bus shelter rooftops for branding. As part of this, roofs were branded with taglines or special-offer announcements of brands. The text was created by moulding acrylic sheets, which were lit with neon tubes. Clients had the option of choosing a multi-coloured display, in which case the acrylic sheets were coloured before lighting. The value-added solution was used by Hindustan Times, Airtel, Wrigley's Orbit and Samsung mobile phones.

While Jaquar placed live bathroom accessories on the shelters, Kissan Ketchup ran a phased campaign, hanging punching bags to convey the arrival of strong packaging.

Slowdown: Ailing and healing

Discussing the year 2009, without mentioning the slowdown, is a difficult task. Like other businesses, the outdoor business was also affected. With clients slashing ad spends drastically, the duration of deals became shorter, with fewer cases of renewals.

While vacant hoardings were on the rise, some media owners used these for innovative self-branding. Origins, a player in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, put up a hoarding for self-branding, which showed the close-up of an eye with a cracked lens. The one-liner on the hoarding read, 'Hit for sure'. The company logo, along with the contact numbers, appeared at the bottom of the hoarding.

Rabe T Iyer, business head, allied businesses, Reliance Media World confesses that though 2009 started on a turbulent note, with OOH being hit by recession the most, recovery happened after April; from a calendar year point of view, therefore, Big Street would finish strong. "We could manage by focussing investment on low-risk inventories like Haryana Road Transport Corporation (HRTC), besides refurbishing the existing inventory to drive better value," he adds.

Raj Mohanty, senior business director, Poster Publicity, reveals, "One of the major setbacks of the slowdown was the blow it gave to the industry's expansion plans. Delhi was hit, but recovered, because the market has good buying power," he says. He also explains how Gurgaon provides what Delhi cannot -- big-sized hoardings that are missing from the Capital due to space constraints.

Gaurav Chhibber, client services director, Ogilvy Landscape, perceives the slowdown as something that led to some major corrections and made clients wiser. "Due to the slowdown, more media was available and there was a constant pressure to come up with effective plans. Most importantly, costs were rationalised and there was a check on overbidding," he says.

According to Madhuri Sapru, managing partner, Kinetic, though the market dropped, the overall business has been good. "Bus shelters came up in a big way this year. Delhi is still media starved and hopefully 2010 holds promise," she adds.

Sources at MOMS, one of the OOH arms of Madison Media, inform that the business was good in 2009 and next year, the market will grow. Also, the agency expects an increase in the number of clients.

A year of groundwork for the New Year

Right from the day Delhi was zeroed on as the host city for the Commonwealth Games, there has been immense pressure on the Delhi government to create world-class infrastructure within strict timelines. What's interesting is that huge investments in infrastructure will add new outdoor formats in the Capital's landscape.

This year, MCD floated a tender to bring 1,000 world class utilities-cum-food courts on build, own, operate, transfer (BOOT) basis. The cost of constructing each high-end utility will be Rs 1 crore. MCD will pocket a minimum reserve price of approximately Rs 400 crore per annum from all 1,000 utilities in the four zones. The advertisement rights for each utility will be awarded for 20 years.

Chandra shares that MCD has received tremendous response from corporates willing to invest in the project.

Next, MCD awarded the contract to install 50 audio-visual LED screens to International Techno Media (ITM). With an investment of Rs 50 crore, the screens will be installed in prime market locations across Delhi. The content and marketing of these screens will be handled by Big Street.

Also, by September 2010, the city will have 2,000 Government-to-Citizen (G2C) kiosks. Located close to main roads, these will provide access to government services, including requests, payment of electricity, water and telephone bills, birth and death certificates, passport applications, and so on.

MCD has also worked on architectural models to set up tehbazari, a site for urban vendors, in 12 zones of Delhi.

With all of these and many more projects in the pipeline for the Commonwealth Games, Chandra declares that "2010 shows a rosy picture for the city's outdoor business".

According to Mohanty of Poster Publicity, in 2010, screens will be the next big media in Delhi. "Screens are content driven and the upside is that the content cannot be borrowed from any other media," he says.

Malhotra of Mudra Max is of the opinion that if 2009 was the year of bus shelters, 2010 will see investments in newer formats.

Chhibber believes that with newer formats coming in the market next year, there will be an over supply; and that will lead to better negotiations on rates. He feels that properties in DMRC and LED screens will do well in 2010.

Sapru of Kinetic thinks that the quality of media will certainly be better next year. Vasudeva of Pioneer Publicity feels that all the planning done by MCD in 2009 will work next year, and street furniture will reach an advanced level.

Krishnendu Ghosh, head, north, Milestone Brandcom feels that while in 2009, designer bus shelters and unipoles were popular with clients; 2010 belongs to LED screens. Iyer is of the opinion that transit formats like bus and metro panels will make it big in the New Year.

When we asked industry leaders about the size of the outdoor business in Delhi, the figures quoted were not unanimous. According to industry stakeholders, the worth of the market stands between Rs 170-200 crore.

With so much planning happening in the year gone by, we hope that 2010 will hold promise for outdoor in Delhi and will be a year of some concrete results.

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