‘Let’s have a process in place’
Kaushik Chakravorty COO Vivaki Specialist Services
Measuring the medium
When you talk of ROI, it depends on the objective of spending. For instance, if there is a new store opened, then the objective is to have footfalls so you can measure that. The answer is yes and no. Yes, because you know the footfall as it is happening, but to independently say that the footfall happened because of OOH medium or any other medium for that matter is a very difficult proposition because, on one hand we are saying we want to have synergy with media and communication, which means I will use whatever means and message to influence my consumer to walk into the store including TV, print, OOH etc. Now how will you break it up and say that of the consumers who walked into the store, 10 came because of the message from Press or 12 came because of TV? You can do engages and recall research, I have full respect for every research that happens and methodologies that are used. But my submission is that, you can’t approach something with a holistic view and then trying segregating it and breaking it up into compartments of mediums. OOH as a medium can be measured to a certain extent but what you are measuring is the question. Another point is that while overall measurement and segregating by medium is possible, it is difficult to say whether it would offer some more insights. So measurement is possible, but it is not as robust as other mediums because of the format of the medium. But overall it is a very high impact medium; it is the only medium where you have a convergence of creativity, innovation, impact and medium. If it is done properly, this medium has very high recall value. We can put a specific number to it but at that point of time, we will have to do away with all other mediums.
Reaching international standards
It is very easy to run down things which are happening and say that things should be much better. Criticizing is the easiest thing to do. Having said that, I agree that the medium needs massive amount of improvement. But it is difficult to answer when. Having been in the business for so long, I can say that the improvements that have happened over a period of time are astounding. We have the same technology which is available abroad, should one want to use it here. As far as creativity is concerned, the Indian creativity fraternity has some astounding people doing beautiful work. But we get a little stuck on the aesthetics of the medium. The aesthetics of the medium depends on the ability of the media owner to invest in aesthetically designed or high technology enabled mediums. According to the media owner’s perspective, he should get a return on investment and the stability of the investment. There is a danger to media owners from different authorities which is why they are more cautious about making investments. There are places like airports; where the media owners have assurance regarding the safety of the property. But it is not so in other places. So it becomes a chicken and egg situation. I think all of us need to wake up and smell the coffee otherwise for the rest of our life we will still be a Rs 18 hundred crore industry! If you look abroad and at the developed countries’ outdoor markets, there is a level playing field and there are set rules and regulation. Today we don’t give the assurance to the media owners on them getting their investment back. Again, it spirals into a total cycle of apprehensions and discontentment because we don’t have a medium that is so savvy that the client wants to use it. Here no one wants to take the risk as a client, agency or media owner, so we always keep on creating discontentment amongst ourselves. In other markets, there is much more cohesiveness and there are lesser number of players who have larger inventories and bigger means of investment. In India we keep on re-inventing ourselves every one hour.
Indian digital outdoor or digital outdoor as a medium needed to be there yesterday, forget about today and tomorrow. If we really have digital outdoor environment in the country, this medium can give returns to advertising spends in much better ways than right now, through the right intervention. The ability of the advertiser to milk that to make much more impact is but obvious. But the genesis of the whole thing is stability of decisions, so we need to get together and stick by it. Only then can the static OOH or dynamic outdoor and everything else will fall in place. Digital outdoor has very high potential of becoming the next
very high impact medium but at the end of it, it can only become the medium when you nurture it and allow it to grow with rules and regulations in place which are more friendly, standardized and stable.
Credit issues- The Solution
By and large I tend to believe that one of the reasons why media owners face credit issues is the haphazard manner in which various stake holders of the business operate. To me, whenever you have something that is not regulated or unorganized, the onus is on you to become organized so there needs to be a standardized check list which no one will be able to over-write until there are compelling reasons and then put the process in place. Today the trouble in this business is that it is people specific and not process specific. My question is: why we can’t have a checklist. I think we collectively are responsible for it. If you ask the client, they will also have a host of complaints to talk about. We have started to accept the least possible method of obstructions. Outdoor Association should enforce certain rules and regulations which will mandate that a media owner has to do, say, ten number of things and agencies say, five things, the client, another ten. Until we have a process in place and consciously decide that no one will be allowed to over-write the process or short circuit the process, the industry will always have problems. Rather than shouting, media owners should look closely at what is happening. In the last two years, we have put very stringent processes in place for ourselves, not only because it is mandatory but also because it has made our lives easier. It is very easy to point fingers saying that the client or the agency is not paying, but you have to understand that one media owner is a subset of 50 media owners which in turn hampers everything. If 49 are compliant and one is not, that is a problem. So the other 49 need to tell the defaulting one that he needs to get compliant too.
Challenges in OOH
The biggest challenge we have is setting up a process and being compliant to the process. This is the biggest issue which encompasses every other issue which plagues the whole industry. The only process we seem to have is that we don’t have any process for anything. All other problems are sub-sections of this problem. The processes that we have are again done in compartments so the media owning fraternity has its own process, the agency fraternity has its own process, the client has its own process, and the Municipality has its own process. There should be a core committee which has equal representations from all stake holders, create a process and take it to the people. But we refuse to look at it from a bigger point of view. Each one of us wants to hold on to what we think is right. Everyone’s intentions are right, but the trouble with the intention is that they are good on the individual level. Why can’t all good intentions get together and create one process which makes sense?