Rajiv Raghunath

January 3, 2011

OOH Media / Growth Oriented

There’s immense scope for new clients, categories and growth: Ishan Raina

‘Our focus has been on audiences and not on putting screens randomly’

Digital OOH is unfolding in all its resplendence in the developed markets. Powered by new technologies, this medium is delivering both premium quality as well as affordable solutions in specific areas.
Ishan Raina
In India, OOH Media is one of the foremost players in the digital audio visual OOH medium. Ishan Raina, CEO & MD, OOH Media, talks about the company’s growth experience as well as the industry trends in an interview to network2media’s Rajiv Raghunath. Excerpts:

Globally digital OOH is showing signs of revival and growth. Are you seeing a similar trend in India?

OOH space seems to be a lot more inviting, and open to innovations. However, many clients and categories (e.g. healthcare) have been added to the basket. In general, OOH space is expected to see a tremendous growth in the future, given the expected infrastructural growth, increased amount of time spent outside home, and the general economy boom in the coming years. Yes, there is revival and gradual growth of digital OOH in India as it is clearly targeted, impactful and is delivering excellent recall in research.

In India, digital OOH industry has gone through turbulent times over the last 3-4 years, including some companies having to shut operations. What reasons would you would attribute to this? What has been OOH Media's learning and its business success mantra?

Many companies did invest heavily on properties and since there were no benchmarks, people made strategic mistakes and then could not survive over the period of time because of wrong procurement, pricing, locations, etc. In every industry this happens, it was true with Internet, radio. etc. This is the nature of most of the new things, new businesses.

OOH was an afterthought earlier, when people were fed on a single newspaper and had only 10-12 channels to choose from. Now, with huge audience fragmentation across genres and TV in general, advertisers are forced to look at OOH as a vital, efficient and valuable advertising medium. Recent media reports and articles confirmed that the OOH growth rate is higher than other media, led essentially by new (digital) formats in outdoors.

OOH Media’s biggest learning has been to focus on getting screens in locations which have audiences that are extremely valuable to advertisers and difficult and expensive to reach through traditional media, both print and audio-visual. Our focus has been on audiences and not on putting screens randomly wherever locations permit.

The common refrain is that digital OOH is the future, yet ad spend on this medium is still conservative. What are your thoughts on this?

We are confident on steady growth, and we are seeing customers who use us becoming regular relations with much more money committed than earlier. In every new medium, the potential is overestimated in the short term and then underestimated in the long term.

What has been OOH Media’s growth experience like? Are you satisfied with what has been achieved thus far?

Definitely not satisfied! We have a long way to go—compared to the rest of the industry, we are clearly a cut above in every sense, audiences, locations, pricing, brand, but the whole industry needs to evolve to the next level.

Today people understand this medium and the future prospect of this medium. The change in the lifestyle trends of the consumers and media fragmentation has led to the growth of this industry. Time spent for consuming traditional mediums is also getting shorter. OOH medium being the reminder medium adds dynamism to the existing media plan of the clients for their brands. According to me, the number of screens is not the game now, rather it is the number of clients that is important and that’s why our target is to increase the clients from 300 to 1000. Also advertisers are now very clear that audiences, both quantity and quality, make up the game going forward and not just screens.

Since we have evolved we have established a team of competent professionals for a new medium, a lot of whom are home grown. As a team we have managed to have most clients sample and use the medium and getting them converted into more repeat clients into the profile base. Initially we had few clients but currently we have most of the categories for first long-term association from finance to telecom, automobile, tourism, media, FMCG, retail, healthcare, etc.

Are media planners taking cognizance of the growing importance of OOH screens? Are you able to attract a sizeable number of brands with the existing inventory?

Right now the good news is that our clients who are convinced about our network, themselves convey the importance of this media to the media planner. Once the client is positive about your network then it is easier for the media agency to select this digital medium in their media plan and we are seeing that change beginning now. In brief, since the industry is still emerging and not yet mainstream media, there is immense scope for new clients, categories and growth. As the industry has begun maturing, advertisers have started buying sharply defined audiences as opposed to ‘screens’ and this will be the clear trend going forward.

The OOH medium, over the years, in India has recorded the highest percentage of growth, after the digital medium. The reason for this sudden spurt in growth can be attributed to a myriad of factors. The increased fragmentation in the primary media of TV and print and leading advertisers seeking better return on their investments and another would be the increase in the amount of time spent out of home and the lifestyle changes for the average person, which could be attributed to higher economic growth. This has resulted in OOH advertising emerging as an integral part of the media mix for advertisers, a far cry from the below-the-line, and leftover budget activity that it was once considered.

OOH Media is largely present inside malls and at youth hangouts. Would you reach out to public places like railway stations, bus stands, Metro stations, inside public buses if the opportunity comes by?

Most of our screens are at premium offices, IT parks, residential buildings, hospitals, gymnasiums and not just malls and multiplexes. We are reducing our exposure to restaurants, as we find that there are very limited footfalls and a very distracting ambience in most of them.

Outdoor advertising is essentially any type of advertising that reaches the consumer while he or she is outside the home. We being digital out-of-home advertising, our screens are placed at such strategic locations targeting the SEC A audience who are the decision maker, influential consumers, wealth creators and high net worth individuals who come for different activities throughout the day and for the entire week. Also the biggest advantage of the medium is that it follows the consumer wherever he is, thus making it a medium present in a day of a life of the consumer.

The specific plans for OOH TV are to not focus on just screens, but to focus on screens which have great audiences, qualitatively and quantitatively so that we offer our advertisers not just screens, but the best, most difficult to reach audience in India.

How important is content excluding ads in drawing people’s attention to the screens?

Unlike TV, where the channel is zapped due to content, OOH TV is a zap proof medium where the customer is captive and not distracted, so the role of content will always be less important than TV. However, every medium needs to engage the viewer not just with the ads but other content relevant to the audience. This is what our current effort is to have content creation as per the audience interest and relevance.

Are you employing any measurement metrics to quantify viewership?

Out of home industry is ready for action about the measurement in OOH but has its own limitation to provide audience-led research on a similarity with other media to generate traffic, cover and frequency estimates. We as an OOH media company understood the gap in the understanding of the medium and initiated a research, OOH Metrics, which is today India’s first ever large scale digital Out-Of-Home TV research. OOH Media conducted this research in association with Nielsen - world's leading provider of marketing information and audience measurement.

OOH Metrics is the only metrics available in outdoor digital audio visual space as of now conducted to understand the demographic profile of the people and the audience behaviour. It is the study done across eight cities, conducted by Nielsen, with a sample size of almost 15,000. OOH Media also does campaign research for the brand advertisers on OOH screens to quantify and qualify the viewership.

We have done over 100 campaign evaluation studies across categories like auto, telecom, finance, FMCG, IT and many more to find the recall of ads through this medium. The results have been encouraging which have resulted in long term relations with clients.

Is there scope for digital screen network in the smaller cities? Are you planning to connect with these markets?

Eventually – currently, the best value to advertisers in this medium is clearly in the metros and mini-metros, where the audience as described earlier is the most fragmented media dark and difficult to reach.

Which kind of brands are opting for digital screens for advertising in greater numbers?

Currently, telecom, automobiles, financial services, FMCG and media & entertainment are the largest categories spending on our medium. Healthcare is catching up dramatically.

Do you believe that the digital OOH players should come together to form a platform to promote knowledge sharing, research and other developmental areas related to the growth and betterment of this industry?

Yes, but very difficult to implement – people are finding it easier to compete than to collaborate, not realising that the challenge is not to undercut each other, but to grow the medium.

Where do you see the digital OOH industry in India headed over the short and medium term and what role to you envisage for OOH Media to assume in this period?

2011 will also be a challenging year but our role as leaders of this industry will be to keep building relevance of this medium to clients.

We want to focus on increasing the number of customers as well as categories. We have currently over 300+ clients across categories -- automobiles, finance, telecom, retail (luxury, apparels, etc), media and entertainment, FMCG, consumer durables, travel and tourism, education, etc., using us for various reasons and campaigns. The industry is still emerging and there is immense scope for new clients, categories and growth. It can’t be limited to just a few categories. Every category can get its share of audience they are looking for. Currently, automobile, telecom, financial services and media and entertainment are our largest categories. FMCG was a late-starter but is now increasing rapidly – healthcare has also started advertising with us.