Outdoor is one of the oldest advertising mediums there is. And interestingly, the most prolific user of this space today is the youngest entertainment platform out there - the OTT segment.
The many roads of Mumbai and streets of the Capital, Delhi (to name a couple of prominent locales) are cluttered with gigantic hoardings featuring shows like Netflix's 'Selection Day' and Zee5 Originals' 'Rangbaaz' among the many billboards that highlight what's new on these streaming platforms. Such is the scenario in the top six metros of India where digital video platforms are spending plenty for their offerings to stand tall at premium sites to garner eyeballs. As per the managing director of an outdoor advertising firm, in 2018 the OTT segment has surpassed the real estate sector to become the biggest spender on outdoor advertising in top metros.
So, why has outdoor become the favourite advertising medium for OTT players? Does it serve a special purpose, beyond the obvious?
According to professional service company - KPMG, OOH advertising is broadly segregated into two parts - airport and non-airport. Airports contribute 30 per cent of OOH's total revenue while the rest is divided among railway stations, high-traffic streets, elevators, shopping malls, and high street markets. The Rs 3,200 crore OOH industry (in FY18) is estimated to grow by 9.2 per cent CAGR to Rs 4,970 crore by 2023 (source: KPMG).
The OTT platforms' outdoor initiatives take off from the airports, are driven through the roads and positioned sell to mall shoppers. Recently, Netflix, in an attempt to promote its horror show 'Ghoul', used the image of bloody handprints on the walls of washrooms to frighten people.
"It (outdoor advertising) gives us the required impact and hence, helps build the right imagery. Lately, we've seen that outdoor has helped us drive 'word of mouth'. Also, with drive time increasing in metros and people spending more time commuting by road, outdoor becomes an important medium for OTT as it's all about consumption on-the-go," explains Manish Aggarwal, business head, Zee5 India. The platform spends a "sizeable" amount on outdoor, which is among the top three of its "most-spent mediums."
For The Viral Fever's head of marketing, Vineet Kanabar, outdoor ads are a "matter of pride" and he believes that when something is put on a billboard, it creates a perception. "Any upstart brand trying to create an impact uses outdoor as a very key part of its media mix. If one recalls, when Housing.com was a big thing they painted all major cities with their hoardings," he says.
Kanabar's use of the term "pride" could translate to a 'show of might' on the part of the platform. Larger-than-life billboards splashed across a city also help elevate a show in the viewer's mind going from a mere programme to an experience. That's how Bollywood sold the 70MM dream to consumers, traditionally.
On the other hand, Divya Dixit, senior vice president and head-marketing ALTBalaji, attributes the trend to the burgeoning competition among OTT platforms. According to her, the fight for the binge-watcher's time has moved outdoors. "Maybe that's why the skyline of cities is dominated by OTT platforms. Billboards are prima facie an 'announcement medium' providing prominence across prime locations in target markets. It helps the vast audience pool notice and register a particular campaign, thereby increasing recall," she adds.
A billboard on a busy road would cost a brand around Rs 1,00,000 for a day which could be negotiated to Rs 3,00,000 for a week if the advertiser has a good relationship with the agency. The prices in Mumbai fluctuate depending on the demand while in Delhi and Bangalore, government restrictions prove to be obstacles.
"Netflix is clearly the biggest spender on outdoor across categories in the top metros. In tier II and tier III cities, the Central Government spends the most. The OTT war in metros is driven by momentum; if a Netflix releases 'Sacred Games' with X number of hoardings, Amazon Prime Video will have to do the same for a 'Mirzapur' to mount the show at the same scale," states a media planner requesting to remain anonymous.
Sanjeev Gupta, managing director, Global Advertising, an outdoor media space owner, asserts that advertisers vary from season to season. "While technology players and builders are on hoardings 24/7-365 days, retailers like Croma advertise during Diwali while appliances like air-conditioners are seen advertising heavily during summer. If you have premium sites, they will be occupied throughout the year," Gupta adds.
He informs that his firm's 1,600 square foot display, the largest in Asia and located in Bandra (Mumbai), has been with Netflix for the past six months. He believes OOH provides a better return on investment to the brands and works as a cost-effective medium. "Any brand willing to take a Times of India page (front) will have to pay anywhere between Rs 50 to 80 lakhs... we can offer a month-long campaign for that much and which is certain to yield a higher return on investment," Gupta explains.
While one can skip an ad on a digital platform or switch channels during commercial breaks on television, OOH does not face such a challenge; a major advantage for the medium. However, the unavailability of a third party measurement body, especially with 99 per cent of OOH inventory in India being non-digital at this stage (as per KPMG), is an obvious disadvantage.
"We calculate ROI in various ways and one is by tracking online searches. If we have a hoarding in X location, we geo-target it to see the search activity (how many people Googled the show being advertised) in that location. Another way to gauge the effectiveness of an outdoor push is by calculating the press coverage a hoarding gets; Hotstar's campaign - 'Torrents Morghulis' (for Game of Thrones) was widely written about and featured on BuzzFeed," says Kanabar. This is not including the earned media platforms enjoy when people click photos of large or creative hoardings and post them on their social media pages.
For Zee5's Manish Aggarwal, ROI is calculated through the number of subscribers and downloads the platform gets during or soon after the outdoor campaign.
Both the top spenders, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, have already announced a large number of releases in 2019. But rivals Zee5, Eros Now and ALTBalaji have also begun to up their outdoor game. Billboards are no doubt going to get more expensive. And with the general elections around the corner, the demand and consequently, the cost of this medium, is set to surge.
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