OAC 2010: Innovation and outdoor - the perennial challenge

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In OOH News | June 14, 2010
Creative ideas in OOH, on an average, leave a lot to be desired and innovation in a relevant manner is perhaps the only factor that can help. At the OAC, TapRoot's Agnello Dias and Volkswagen's Bishwajeet Samal presented their views on the matter

Creativity bubbles to the fore for TV, for print and even for new emerging media - but outdoor as a medium could be best described as the one waiting in the wings for the longest time, hoping to get its due share of the glory (and marketers' bucks). At the Outdoor Advertising Convention (OAC) 2010, Agnello Dias, co-founder and chief creative officer, TapRoot India discussed the top 10 challenges in being creative for outdoor, while Bishwajeet Samal, head, marketing communication, Volkswagen Group Sales India, tackled 'Creating desire and building awareness with outdoor innovations'.

& #BANNER1 & #Dias (or Aggi - as he is referred to) began with a quip: "When I was asked to present the top 10 challenges in creativity in outdoor, my first reaction was, 'Only 10?'" As the audience chuckled, Dias continued, "Yes, of course outdoor doesn't get the credit it deserves and sometimes, is only taken seriously during the awards season."

The first challenge on Dias' list was that of 'chronology': that outdoor always comes last in a client brief. "There isn't any particular reason why this chronology exists," he said, "but for creative guys, film scripts and print ideas kick in instantly, while outdoor comes in last, unless the client has specified it to be an outdoor heavy campaign."

Next on his list was the problem of 'attitude', the popular perception that outdoor serves just as a reminder medium. Thirdly, 'belief' is an issue, as people believe that nobody has the time to look or decipher a hoarding when on the move, so a brand must 'say something fast' in outdoor. This, translated, often means that pasting a large logo becomes the hoarding 'idea'. "I don't believe in hiding under the 'people have no time' blanket. I believe that if an ad is engaging, it will catch attention out of home," Dias shrugged.

The fourth issue was that of 'culture', which implies that agencies at large possess the cultural mindset that outdoor is for juniors. Next came the problem of 'support', which stems from the mental block that nothing much is possible in outdoor and there is only so much that can be done. "We need to get support from the big guys, to arrange for greater interactions between creative guys and outdoor industry experts regarding the possibilities in this medium," Dias said.

Sixth on Aggi's list was 'inspiration' - while Nike, for instance, has done great work on television, and Volkswagen is the big daddy of print, no single brand can claim to have made outdoor its creative haven. "Which is the brand known for building itself over its outstanding outdoor work alone?" Dias questioned. "One needs to aim for the impossible with outdoor, so even if one falls short, he would have achieved much."

Problem No. 7 was that of 'definition': that outdoor is equal to hoarding. "Firstly, that isn't true; and secondly, even when one talks 'hoarding', there are so many different ways of using a hoarding which we are still unaware of. So even that is unexplored," Dias said. At No. 8 was 'derivative' - that outdoor ideas come from the main campaign, or that the last frame of a TVC - containing the logo and baseline - is what outdoor deserves. "This is what our juniors grow up believing and it is all wrong," he said, citing the Cannes award winning HBO Voyeur campaign as a fine example of customisation of an idea to outdoor as a medium, as it showcased a different level of HBO's storytelling craft outside the usual platforms.

Next, Dias said that outdoor doesn't get the kind of 'spotlight' it deserves in media, including some trade media. Dias concluded by saying that the tenth challenge is 'me'. "This includes people like me, who have, over the years, succumbed to the previous nine challenges," he said.

Bishwajeet Samal of Volkswagen came up next on the dais to talk of a less daunting topic, citing cases where innovation in outdoor has indeed led the brand to touch a different level. "Thoughts are changing; people are using outdoor differently," he began. Talking specifically about Volkswagen, Samal said that the auto company's focus has been shifting on outdoor for quite some time. He cited the launch of Polo in France, or the new Beetle launch in China as examples of a different use of outdoor media.

At New York Square, technology was made full use of - where questions about Volkswagen were asked and instant responses received on the spot were flashed on a screen projected there. Similarly, in another part of the world, Volkswagen had a dark hued hoarding akin to an umbrella that overshadowed the road, with the words 'Perfect day for a test drive' almost stencilled in the hoarding so that the sunlight shone through those exact words on those driving below. For Volkswagen Touran, conveyer belts at airports were branded as a direct connotation to how much space the car has.

Samal went on to reveal the key reasons to innovate in OOH, the first of which was the fact that it poses a solution to media clutter, with so many hoardings out there vying for the precious seconds passersby may or may not spare. Secondly, with the time spent out of home in malls and multiplexes, there is an opportunity for brands to catch people outside their homes and more close to the point of purchase.

Thirdly, it helps in building quick awareness and recall for the brand and if done nicely, innovation can also lead to the snowballing effect - word of mouth (WoM), talks on social networking sites and blogs. On some occasions, outdoor even adds to the environment of a city; further, topical issues can be communicated quickly over outdoor (almost overnight).

However, he added that innovations in the outdoor space should be relevant to the brand, simple and easy to understand, preferably scalable, cost-effective and should get magnified and create a buzz on their own.

For instance, to signify the launch of the new Beetle on the positioning 'Curves are back', Volkswagen had the different parts of a car painted on different hoardings, all of which were brought together at a spot in Bandra, Mumbai, in a cluster-like manner to form the shape of the car.

Another innovation for the launch of Volkswagen in India was the 'moving Beetle' in the logo of Volkswagen on a hoarding, an activity carried out in four cities. Heli-banners on Mumbai's skyline for the launch of the new Beetle is another example of how word of mouth was generated through the outdoors.

Having spoken of the positives of outdoor, Samal said that some prominent challenges still exist, which need to be overcome. For instance, the measurement of effectiveness in the industry, the easing up of norms, superior production facilities, trained project managers who understand the importance of the medium, investment in ideas and technology and quality control are some such issues which need attention.

"We asked our agency, Mudra, to present its outdoor ideas on a visiting card - the rationale being that if it is comprehensible there, only then does it possess the potential to catch attention or make sense to a passerby from a distance," Samal concluded.

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