The fifth edition of the Outdoor Advertising Convention (OAC) kicked off on Friday, June 11 at the Renaissance, Powai, Mumbai. The theme at the convention for this year was 'I to Industry', where the focus was on the need for everyone in the industry to get together and work jointly for its growth and development.
Day One saw discussions, debates, arguments and a lot more amongst OOH practitioners from all aspects of the business, including brands, advertising, media and research agencies, specialist OOH (out of home) agencies, media concessionaires, printers, solution providers and regulators.
In another discussion, Madhuri Sapru, managing partner, South Asia, Kinetic, said, "Let's get OOH its place on the table" and, drawing an analogy, she discussed how the OOH industry only gets the 'leftovers of the party'.
She said, "As a medium, TV has the highest penetration at 91 per cent and, in fact, next is OOH with 73 per cent penetration. Yet, in terms of spends, television saw Rs 9,000 crore spent on it last year, while OOH saw only Rs 1200 crore." Why is it so disproportionate - she questioned.
Sapru added that OOH is one of the most unique media as it is localised. It is a medium where touch points in everyday life become the media.
She said, "During the summer, picture people walking around perspiring and feeling the heat - outdoor could be leveraged by soft drinks, juices and water. Yet, last year, soft drinks spent Rs 340 crore on television and only about Rs 16 crore on OOH. When a person is thirsty and collapsing outside, he won't go home and call the kirana shop to ask for a soft drink! Outside of home is where you reach him." Point noted!
Later in the day, Ashish Bhasin, chairperson, India and chief executive officer, Southeast Asia, Aegis Media discussed 'What will attract more products and services to use OOH?'. His blunt and honest dialogue, where he held up a mirror to the industry, was well applauded.
He shared five simple thoughts on this by giving the acronym 'PEPSI', where 'P' stands for people, 'E' for evolution, 'P' again for professionalism, 'S' for a strategic approach and 'I' for information.
Bhasin shared that when it comes to people, adequate training must be provided, and bigger salaries and incentives should be given. Next, the OOH industry has to go through a phase of evolution, but for now, he said that OOH in India is in an intellectual time warp. It has to break the crutches of technology and gimmicks and also keep up with the changing trends.
Giving in to an exaggeration to make a point, he said that when it comes to professionalism, we are stuck in the 'Delhi Bus Shelter syndrome', where more shelters are 'sold' than they really exist.
"In the UK, if I've been promised x and y for so and so amount of money, I can rest assured that I will get x and y. The industry has to work on faith, trust and transparency. Clients want to work with professional people," he asserted.
He revealed how it is a vicious circle and common practice now, where owners bribe to acquire sites and clients and agencies want kickbacks. All these things taint the industry. Professionalism desperately needs to be brought into this business.
"The medium also has to be looked at strategically. But many buy the medium like they are buying brinjals," commented Bhasin. He added that though the industry has improved, it hasn't come very far from where it was 10 years ago. "We have to stop justifying day before yesterday's communication a little better," he said.
Bhasin further added that while Indians are intellectually among the most advanced, they are also very argumentative. "Nobody will put big bucks behind gut feel. If you don't have a common currency - how do you do business?" he questioned, adding, "We're stuck in trying to get things right, we're trying so hard to get it perfect to a 99.99 per cent that we're missing the big picture. Thus, we are 'The Argumentative Indians without a common currency'."
He said that there are some who are simply resisting change and the industry is not pushing itself hard enough. "We're just saying things on a podium like this but going back and doing the same things. I think a lot will change if PEPSI is addressed," he concluded.