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OOH, digital need to marry for scale-up in India

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MUMBAI: If out-of-home (OOH) business has to scale up in India, it has to align with digital media to reach out to a rising youth population while preparing for innovations to keep in line with evolving technologies.

India has a lot of catching up to do in the digital OOH sector. The size of the digital OOH market is a meagre $10.5 million compared to China?s $1.8 billion, US? $1.1 billion and UK?s 160 million.

The OOH landscape, however, is changing fast. There are nearly 20 million bloggers, 55 million tweets a day, 4 million photos on Flickr, 25 hours of video that are uploaded daily, 10 billion songs sold on i-tunes and 1 trillion URLs on Google. Nearly 25 per cent of the world?s population is online.

"There is a vast opportunity for OOH to collaborate with digital media and reach out to this population," says strategy advisor Dennis Sullivan.

Supporting this marriage between OOH and digital will be the growth of mobile Internet and penetration of smartphones in India. A survey shows that 17 per cent of apps on the mobiles are related to OOH. The truth is that most people use mobiles when they are outside, where OOH exists, and is easily accessible to the new media users.

OOH companies will have to learn how to engage the consumers. With the evolution of new media, it is also possible to pinpoint the TG and the communication directed towards it.

Says Sullivan, "Innovation, technology, production and audience participation all work in tandem to create effective digital OOH and will craft the future of the medium in India."

Digital OOH faces several challenges in India, including factors like economic viability, changing technologies, planning, and finding the right balance between digital and pure OOH. Lack of tools to measure accountability, raising the creative bar, and moving away from pure OOH to content-based execution are the other hurdles that need to be crossed over.

Says DDB Mudra Group COO Pratap Bose, "Digital OOH exists in a silo which it needs to break free from. Everything we do is digital and is not limited to one screen only. This calls for creation for exclusive content for the digital OOH medium. Once you start looking at digital OOH as a business solution, the planning and execution of innovations will become streamlined."

The outdoor medium is often complementary to the new media and provides scope for innovation. Also, OOH drives search and is a powerful communication medium when targeted at a particular audience moving in a particular destination.

Says Vodafone India senior vice president - brand, consumer insights and communications Anuradha Aggarwal, "OOH?s beauty and merit lies in the fact that it is a local medium and, thus, can be used to target a niche audience."

In the age of smartphones and multiple media usage, an innovation on OOH can be transferred on to different mediums; it has a multiplier effect. A life-sized super zoozoo mannequin, for instance, is going to find itself photographed, tweeted and talked about for sure.

Innovation can and should be used to drive consumer engagement. A group of dancers perched on a scaffolding at a prominent junction dancing to the dhol on Baisakhi in Ludhiana is as good a way to engage your customers as any.

?The innovation needs to add to the message, grab attention and create memorability. OOH is a local medium and, thus, innovation can be done keeping in mind the relevance of the audience. Using OOH as a reminder medium only doesn?t utilise the might of the medium; one needs to start with the intention of innovating in this medium and then move forward,? says Aggarwal.

Can innovations achieve scalability? "Innovation do not operate on the premises of scalability in the first place. It may not necessarily be applied over a large scale," says Bose.

Clients need to be brave and invest in innovations, particularly when OOH is becoming increasingly about people and is no longer the static medium it used to be. Says Bose, "Innovations in the OOH medium need to engage the consumer to be effective. The parameters are being continuously redefined. Innovation in OOH is more about magic and less about logic."

How does one predict on the ROI while innovating? "Due to the lack of measuring tools in the medium , the gut feel plays a big role. This has to be backed with experience and insights," says Aggarwal.

OOH is no longer that huge billboard or the bus shelter. It is being almost anything out-of-home. "This evolution has taken time but has finally arrived," says Times OOH managing director Sunder Hemrajani.

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