Parag Pandya
Guest Article

Back to basics will be the new normal...

The Coronavirus pandemic has put the whole world on a ‘pause’ mode. What is going to happen once the enforced restrictions are eased?

The whole world, as we know it, is amidst a sudden, massive and rapid change. Most people are in the home quarantine phase, on a scale (we have) not seen or experienced before.

Businesses all over have been affected in some way, many have now acclimatised to the new work-from-home normal. But with the world moving indoors, OOH advertising was sure to take the biggest hit. Brand campaigns rolled back and ad spends dropped to zilch. Although, a positive side to this is that many outdoor sites have been put to great use for PSAs and government messaging, some even dedicating spaces to spread messages of positivity and useful information.

On the other hand, and as rightly predicted, the shift in ad spends has moved towards television and digital due to the lockdown. OTT continues its boom, TV ratings are seeing a rise again, and people are getting more and more creative on digital platforms.

But what now is the real scope for OOH, especially post lockdown? What do you think everyone is doing sitting at home right now? Waiting to get the heck out of home!

We are living in a history defining moment right now. But what is going to happen once the enforced restrictions are eased? While at this point, no one knows for certain about when the spread will come fully under control in India, or if some cities will open up earlier than the rest, or which industries can restart full-fledged operations, we still need to prepare for what comes next as well.

The Coronavirus pandemic has put the whole on a ‘pause’ mode. But this is a good time to study audience behaviour and learn from other OOH markets dealing with the crisis, to help provide foresight and aid smarter business planning.

Businesses across sectors have already taken a hit. So, the focus will be on revving up service and goods delivery with an objective of making these products readily accessible in large quantities to the end user. Many production units had to stop mid-way when lockdown orders were announced, so, there will be ready goods to distribute as well.

While this may differ for any service business, it will be the way further for all manufacturing businesses. And as this goes into process, marketing activities will start again. Albeit at a snail’s pace, but it will start.

Considering the entire country is eager to step out, which medium, do you think, will come out as an affirmative choice? OOH.

However, the recovery will happen in stages. A quick look at what mediums of OOH will look positive in the first stage tells you:

1. Street furniture

2. Billboards

3. Transit: Buses (External), auto backs, cabs

Malls and cinemas will not see a spike for a while, however, road-facing mall facades will be the best option in this scenario.

Another question being, will people be inclined to use trains, metros and public transport? Or, for that matter, will authorities allow people to travel together in large numbers in these mediums?

So, what will be the new normal in everyday travel? Cabs and autorickshaws will look at restricting the number of passengers they ply on each trip. Buses may ease the load of passengers per trip. This will increase the wait time for procuring a mode of transport. We will see more private cars on the roads for a while. While billboards will always be here to stay, the most apt locations to place your ad, post quarantine, will be targeting vehicular traffic on the roads.

We may see this impact extending to air travel as well. Air traffic will, undoubtedly, resume, but airlines may choose not to fly at full capacity for some time. Programmatic DOOH buys at airports will be the ideal step forward to save monies.

While the planet will be in a state of rebooting itself, back to basics will be the new normal. OOH being the oldest medium of communication on this planet, we will be the new.

Welcome to our world, a world full of billboards, the great outdoors!

(The author is senior vice president – OOH and experiential, West and East at The Social Street.)