Ahead of print wars, outdoor skirmishes

Move over telecom, print is here! Wondering what the connection is? Here's what? By far the largest advertiser on the outdoor medium - telecom - is getting pushed aside as more and more daily print publications sky in on the outdoor medium to get their message across!

According to industry estimates, the total spend on outdoor in India during 2004-2005 was Rs 8 billion and is expected to grow by 12 per cent to Rs 8.96 billion in the coming year. Out of this, Mumbai accounts for spends of Rs 3.25 billion in the outdoor space.

The highest spender on outdoor today is the telecom sector (Rs 900 million), then comes the media sector comprising television and print, which accounts for spends of Rs 750 million. Out of this, television takes up Rs 450 million and print accounts for spends worth Rs 300 million.

On the other hand, the financial sector accounts for spends worth Rs 400 million, automobile sector accounts for Rs 300 million and all the other sectors combine account for Rs 900 million.

Coming now to the print sector, be it the invincible leader The Times of India (TOI) and its sibling pink paper The Economic Times (ET) or the soon to arrive new kid on the block DNA (Daily News and Analysis) from the Zee-Bhaskar stable; hoardings of rival print publications now dominate the Mumbai skyline. The latest to go up on Friday (27 May) morning were billboards announcing the imminent arrival of The Times' "flanker paper" Mumbai Mirror (launching today). Interestingly, the Mumbai Mirror ads mostly replaced the TOI hoardings.

Who's bigger? --- 'Mumbai Mirror' and 'The Indian Express' face off on hoardings in Andheri

To give a low down, here are the daily publications that are heavily banking on the outdoor medium to make a mark in the consumer's mind space --- DNA, The Indian Express, TOI, ET, The Maharashtra Times, Mid-Day and Mumbai Mirror. One more that will soon hit the hoardings stands are Hindustan Times (launching July).

As the print publications' space suddenly gets hotter, so has their advertising. Sample this: DNA has almost 125 hoardings in Mumbai, ET has booked 200 hoardings whereas Mumbai Mirror has booked more than 150 hoardings in the city. Mid-Day, on the other hand has been heavily promoting its supplement - HitList since the last few months - be it bus backs, bus shelters or normal hoardings. Apart from this mobile hoarding vans have also been driving dailies daily. While DNA booked five vans from Kino Sign Trucks, they also hired four additional vans from M'cons Advertising considering the fact that each caters to different locales in Mumbai.

'The Economic Times' hoarding in Andheri

TOI on the other hand, has booked two M'cons Advertising vans in June, most likely for the Mumbai Mirror campaign. Zenith Outdoor, one of the major outdoor players in Mumbai, has two hoarding sites for DNA, which have been booked for an uncertain amount of time; whereas TOI has booked five sites with them for a period of two months.

Timely response: 'DNA' salutes Sunil Dutt

It would be correct to assume that the 'print going outdoor' saga started with the DNA teaser campaign, which came with its share of controversies. Hitting below the belt, TOI encashed on this campaign and rolled out a Maharashtra Times' campaign on similar lines, thus taking the credit away from DNA. That apart, TOI got into aggressive mode and rolled out its '40 Pages In Colour' outdoor campaign along with the ET campaign. So much was the need felt to be seen, that The Indian Express too rolled out its 'Courage' campaign.

'Express' all the way on the Western Express highway

If one zooms by the Western Express highway in Mumbai, all they get to see are DNA and The Indian Express hoardings one after the other. Come a little further towards the Andheri suburb and the scenario changes to DNA and Mumbai Mirror hoardings peeking from behind buildings and trees to make their presence felt. The placement of these hoardings is really noteworthy. Varied combos of back to back hoardings of DNA, Indian Express and Mumbai Mirror are what one can "feast" on. Apart from permanent hoarding sites, mobile hoarding vans have also been used in Mumbai in areas such as Bandra, Andheri, Marine Drive etc.

'Mumbai Mirror' ready to roar?

Speaking to on the print media's contribution to the outdoor industry, Madison Outdoor Media Services Pvt Ltd (MOMS) chief operating officer Soumitra S Bhattacharyya says, "There has been a definite positive contribution to the outdoor industry which is more subtle than real. The fact that a print media is advertising on outdoors elevates the credibility of the outdoor industry per se and brings home the fact that outdoors does work."

Lintas' outdoor agency Aaren Initiative will be handling the outdoor for the Mumbai edition of The Hindustan Times. The agency's business head Vivek Lakhwara says it was too early to talk about the HT hoardings in the city. "Right now I cannot divulge the number of hoardings that HT is planning to put up. The plans are yet to be firmed up," he says.

'DNA' teaser campaigns on M'cons advertising van along with a permanent hoarding site in the background

Now let's delve on the fact whether this sudden leap of print publications advertising outdoor will be consistent or will it be just a passing phase? M'cons Advertising assistant consultant (outdoor) Mohammed Reza opines, "Spends on print are coming down and that on outdoor going up. This stems from the fact that outdoor is an innovative medium where apart from permanent hoarding sites, vans and kiosks are also available. The teaser campaign for DNA aroused a lot of curiosity and I think that print publications will maintain the tempo on outdoor advertising." He feels that new print players will sustain the outdoor advertising for the coming two months at least so as to capture the initial share of eyeballs before launch.

'DNA' hoarding off the Western Express highway

Bhattacharyya, on the other hand is confident that this is not a passing phase as far as daily print publication advertising on outdoor is concerned. "This is not a passing phase at all. In fact media and entertainment would be way up on the list of major spender categories in outdoors at least in the years to come." If one were to look at the last two months, print publications would be the third largest spenders in outdoors after the entertainment and telecom sectors, he points out. "But if we consider the whole year they would not be as high up since the burst of activity due to various newspaper launches have only happened in the recent times," he adds.

Lakhwara, however, feels that print publications will sustain only some bit of outdoor advertising. Moreover, it might move on to signage or ads in malls and multiplexes.

Bright Advertising general manager Manish Jain says, "Outdoor is unavoidable as it has 24-hours visibility unlike any other medium. I believe that print publications will continue their advertising on this medium."

Speaking on the rates of hoardings for print publications, he says that normal hoarding rates apply, which depend on the location it is put up in. However, sometimes there are barters also that take place and some hoarding sites are provided complimentary or are sponsored by someone for them.

Kino Sign Trucks director Kabbir Luthria points out that currently print publications are probably the highest spenders on outdoors.

Surely, a new star has risen in the space, which was until now dominated by the telecom and entertainment sectors. And from the looks of it, as the new dailies will hit the stands, the space is sure to get hotter and hotter.

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