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Covid2019 communication: Is it time to change OOH messaging?

Governments, local bodies should be refreshing the communication to stay relevant

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NEW DELHI: It has been close to three months since the announcement of a nationwide lockdown in the wake of Covid2019 and even longer since the governments across states have been trying to promote the necessary social distancing and other precautionary measures via advertising. While there has been constant innovation in digital and TV commercials, with the constant addition of newer faces and updating of messaging with changing scenarios, OOH hoardings are still covered in the initial set of messaging. Case in point, the following hoardings spread across Mumbai, which have been a constant for months now!

Posterscope India director Fabian Cowan believes that for communication to be effective it needs to be refreshed with time, based on the current environmental cues and prevalent truths. Therefore, a refreshed set of creatives and communication is most certainly required to be promoted by the civic bodies.

“The elements and tone need to be in line with the current stage of the pandemic. If staying at home was the single-minded focus at the start of the pandemic, maintaining the right kind of social distancing could be the line of thought in the current context as restriction begins to ease.”

Laqshya Media group CEO Atul Shrivastava adds, “The Covid2019 communications had utilised the OOH space for over two months. However, awareness is still needed especially in the larger cities where the curve is still climbing. Therefore, a few strategic locations with high visibility should be chosen for specific Covid2019 communications. As people start going back to offices across the country and supply chains open up, there needs to be a healthy balance between public service and commercial activity.”

Kinetic India co-CEO Charanjeet Arora feels while it is important to refresh the messaging, it is totally the government’s call to do it or not. “Honesty, it is a pandemic and the government understands the magnitude of it. In their long list of priorities, I think saving lives is on top right now.”

He continues, “If I talk about just Delhi and Mumbai, they are much evolved markets and internet penetration is quite high. People are aware but there is a constant need for communication because the memories in our country are constantly shuttling. It is important to have this (Covid-centric) communication but there is a need to work on the frequency as we have to build the sentiments of businesses back. For example, in Delhi, at least 30 per cent of all OOH billboards should have this communication but the areas should be chosen based on the need.”
So, should the brands be taking the onus of acquiring OOH space and share Covid-related messaging?

Arora doesn’t think it will be wiser for brands to constantly keep talking about the pandemic in their messaging. “Brands need to be subtle and empathetic in their communication, surely. It shouldn’t look like a high-decibel sales pitch. But they should be talking about their own brand experience and usage.”

If Cowan as to be believed, brands too are looking forward to incorporating the same style of out-of-home messaging going ahead. He says, “Currently there are encouraging signs with regards to the increased number of enquiries and considerations being made on possible open markets, especially with respect to green zones. We see this as a positive development. While these discussions currently are in the realm of media possibilities and its deployment our sense is that the communication will largely be centred around sales and benefits of ownership of such products given the current context.”

Shrivastava says that most brands are trying to strike a balance between awareness and sales pitch and the pure commercial advertising will take a few more weeks to come back. “They are keeping marketing communications sensitive, meaningful, relevant and optimistic. Many companies have launched new initiatives to give them an edge in the age of the New Normal. The brands are communicating these initiatives more to portray to the consumers that they care for their employees and their consumers.”

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