Nisha Qureshi

OOH body chair Pawan Bansal urges agencies to advice advertisers to buy OOH media only from IOAA members

The IOAA chairman spoke about the measures taken by the body to further regulate OOH in India.

Pawan Bansal, the chairman of the board of IOAA (Indian Outdoor Advertising Association), the apex body of the country’s OOH industry laid out various measures taken up by the industry body to prevent incidents like the Ghatkopar tragedy again.

Bansal was speaking at a panel titled, 'OOH - Adapting to be accountable' on the third day of Goafest 2024.

“The recent incident of the hoarding falling at Ghatkopar has shaken all of us and, although the owner was the rogue element, we as an association regret the incident.”

16 individuals lost their lives and more than 70 were hurt when a large billboard fell during a severe storm in Mumbai on May 13, 2024. The incident raised several concerns about the OOH industry and its internal practices. Following the tragic incident, the Mumbai Crime Branch arrested Bhavesh Prabhudas Bhinde, 51, the director of Ego Media Pvt Ltd which had the contract for the hoarding on a 10-year lease. The hoarding in question was illegal.

Bansal stated that they have started a program of reaching out to 50 municipal authorities in the country and have asked the municipalities to let IOAA become a part of the policies that are being tweaked. He said that they recently met with the Additional Commissioner of BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) to discuss the same.

“Safety of the citizens, advertisers as well as agencies is paramount,” he stated. Bansal pointed out that they wish to bring in more transparency in the industry. To prevent hoardings on illegal sites, they have asked municipal corporations to provide a list of the properties sanctioned by them. A list comprising the names of the legal sites will be displayed on IOAA’s website. 

Bansal further requested the AAAI (Advertising Agencies Association of India) to nudge advertisers to buy spaces only from players who are a part of the IOAA.

“We need a letter going out from the AAAI going to the media owners instructing the OOH agency heads to buy only from IOAA members. You will then see a change in the eco-system. Once people become IOAA members, I don’t think that whatever happened in Ghatkopar will ever happen again.”

The organisation is also advising municipal corporations to increase the conditions and barriers in the OOH business. “The person who is applying for a license should have some background in advertising and marketing.”

Chairman of the board at Selvel One Group, Noomi Mehta also expressed his opinion on the incident. “We have to find a system to regulate the regulators,” he said.

“My reaction to the incident is that of rage and terrific anger. How could such a thing even be allowed to have happened? The site in question is 120 feet x 140 feet. This is bigger than anyone's house I presume, and was put up without any regulation."

Mehta gave an example of another big structure on railway land that is legal and has been built with at least 700 tonnes of steel and is 35 feet into the ground for support and compared it to the illegal site that was built with only 27 tonnes of steel.

“How can we, the people who want to follow all the rules, compete with such a guy? If he has to sell his sites to a client, he can sell them for much cheaper and make handsome profits. If OOH has to prosper, we need to manage these fringe players who use political influence and money to bypass everything,” said Mehta.

“From an outward perspective, we need all the help we can get to bring these people to book. We have offered our help to the regulators,” he added.

According to Mehta, the entire industry needs to come together including media owners, agencies as well as clients to understand that certain things are just off the table. “You cannot and must not encourage such elements.”

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