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Portland keen on India

By , agencyfaqs! | In | August 05, 2002
The WPP-owned outdoor agency has been silently setting its priorities right over the last three years


Stealth is a virtue one readily associates with the king of the jungle or any feline variety for that matter. The animal slowly but steadily inches towards its prey and at the precise moment, dives for the kill. Strangely, however, despite going by our animal instincts most of the time, this quality could well elude the most seasoned of players, especially when speaking about the launch of an agency, brand or otherwise. How often one encounters professionals extolling the virtues of their initiatives even before it has seen the light of day! Not so, however for Portland India.

This WPP agency - with annualised global billings exceeding 150 million pounds and a presence in more than 40 countries - has, over the last three years (it set up shop in India in 1999), been pursuing the route of research and measurement of a medium, considered the most unorganised. "Our mission is to create measurability for the outdoor medium, invest in research even before you start looking out for business and educate clients and contractors - both current and potential - about this new scientific approach," elaborates Arminio Ribeiro, president, Portland India.

In keeping with its philosophy, the agency has imported two international proprietary tools and adapted them to Indian conditions. These include the Portland Site Valuation Worldwide or PSVW and Traffic Counts. "PSVW is a research tool designed to provide quantitative and qualitative assessment of poster panels," explains Ribeiro. "It is a technique that combines and evaluates panel visibility, angle, direction, illumination, height from the ground and many other panel characteristics," he states.

Conducted by research agency IMRB, the tool is totally software-driven with the visibility score of a panel arrived at by using a set of prefixed criteria. "Traffic Counts, on the other hand, is designed to generate accurate traffic estimates, be it vehicular or pedestrian," claims Ribeiro. "The process of traffic evaluation requires the mapping of the entire city, the main junctions and roads on which the count is to be taken, which is then listed out. A traffic count is done using manual meters, and total traffic figures are extrapolated from this data," he adds.

The process of data collection and compilation is not handled by an in-house team but managed by research agency AC Nielsen instead. "We prefer commissioning established agencies who can dedicatedly do the job as opposed to doing it ourselves," says Ribeiro, who incidentally is both a commercial and fine artist, having graduated from the JJ School of Art, Mumbai, in 1975.

This approach also covers the area of value-added services where Portland has commissioned two independent bodies for PORTSCAN and PORTRACK. The former tracks advertising spends across 12 cities and 10 categories and the latter tracks specific client campaigns across 230 towns. Besides, its third value-addition ENVISAGE offers the facility for pre-testing outdoor designs as it will be seen in its intended environment, but before production of expensive vinyls.

"Our agenda is clear," emphasises the former vice-president and client services director at HTA who came on board Portland around 15 months ago. "We intend building our reputation through quality, value-added services, innovation and transparency. We have the largest network of offices in 21 locations across the country in comparison to most other agencies that operate out of metros cities," he adds.

Having spent time building critical mass during much of its low-profile existence, Portland has been aggressively scouting for new business (it handles the outdoor needs of MindShare clients) since the last quarter of 2001. "We have grown by 68 per cent over last year and have the largest base of cellular players," claims Ribeiro. The agency's key clients include ITC, Idea Cellular (handled in six states), Spice Telecom (in both Punjab and Haryana), Ford, Samsung Monitors, HPCL and Standard Chartered Bank. Its annualised billings for the year 2000 (January to December) was Rs 212 million whereas for 2001, the figure stood at Rs 362 million.

"We have actually been in the business for only about two years now, but yet have managed to overtake the others," claims Ribeiro. "To us, competition comes primarily from Ogilvy Outdoor, the largest outdoor agency in the country," he adds in a matter-of-fact tone. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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