Exploiting OOH’s true potential: Mukesh Manik

03 Oct,2011

By Nibha


If developing strong and reputed brands makes good business sense, and if brands are what the consumers relate to, identify with, and buy, then it is important for marketers to exploit the true potential of billboards and other OOH media.

More on this in an interview with Mukesh Manik, M-I-C (Man-In-Charge) at Encyclomedia Networks, the only Indian OOH media creative shop that is currently headquartered in Mumbai, India. It is represented in four markets under joint venture agreements – Australia & New Zealand out of Melbourne, Australia (www.mediatag.com.au), Latin America out of Buenos Aires, Argentina (www.encyclomediala.com) with offices in Guatemala and Mexico, Kiev, Ukraine and Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (www.encyclomedia.me). Besides, Encyclomedia is also represented through exclusive distribution contracts in Bangladesh, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Croatia, Kazakhstan and Hungary.


Excerpts from the interview:


Q: How has your journey been in the media Industry till date and what is it that excites you about billboards?

Media and advertising has always intrigued and amused me. A message is sent out to the masses repeatedly over a period of time, and that this message has a multi-dimensional impact on the choices that are made by an individual and the perception of a product is fascinating. Billboards are my favourite as more and more people are spending time out of home. They also present their own set of challenges as they have to deliver a message while the viewer is moving in most cases at speeds of 60 km/hour. This gives just a few seconds to catch the attention, deliver the message and assist brand recall. The trick lies in the design which should be able to engage the viewer in those critical few seconds while there are other distractions like traffic, environmental landscape, music, etc. A well-designed billboard is easily one of the most powerful, consistent and effective means of communicating to an audience on the move. Marketers still have to exploit the true potential of this medium and this in itself presents an opportunity like no other.


Q: What role do you think innovation plays in OOH media? And in the recent past can you name any campaign which can be termed as “really innovative”?

Innovation isn’t just about using cutouts and neon, though I admit that they are effective at times. Innovation lies in understanding how best to use the tools available to enhance the billboard creative, to create an impact that has a lasting recall. Truly innovative billboards are remembered years later, much after the campaign is over. In the recent past, one of the most innovative billboards I have seen was the Barclays Bank Billboard which just carried their logo on a white background. The innovation was in its simplicity and ability to make the announcement that Barclays is now in India.


Q: How does one justify the cost of innovations in terms of both the recall value and the rise in the market share especially when we don’t have any posting technology at place to justify the effectiveness of the OOH campaign?

“Innovation” is perceived as being expensive but in actuality it is quite the opposite. In the Barclays billboard mentioned above, there was no additional cost of materials, cutouts, neon, etc. but it still had the desired impact. Innovation drives recall, recall fuels sales. Advertising is meant to provoke a response. If the ad is forgotten, it cannot possibly invoke a call to action. Though there is technology available to measure the effectiveness of Outdoor advertising, the true measurement is in the after effects of the campaign. Product advertising is easier to measure compared to a service as the advertiser can just take a look at their sales graph.


Q: What difference can be made in terms of ‘Innovation’ for Outdoor (Traditional Media) and for Indoor (Alternative Touch Points)?

I believe that a media plan consisting of an Outdoor campaign and an effective Point of Sale is sufficient to achieve sales objectives for a brand. Marketers need to appoint specialist agencies for the different media formats they advertise on. This is easier said than done. The creative and innovation has to be across all the formats. An agency specializing in TV commercials and Radio cannot possibly be expected to come up with innovative creative solutions for an Outdoor campaign.


Q: According to you is accountability the factor that is keeping the clients at bay from the OOH Media, when it comes to the media plan? And do you think that the clients are ready to experiment with the real time innovations and not just cutouts and neons in the near future…?

Clients are increasingly accepting Outdoor as an independent medium. The double digit growth in the Outdoor advertising industry confirms this trend. With over a 100 TV channels and hundreds of print publications, the chances of an advertisement being missed is higher than ever. Outdoor advertising addresses that issue easily as a good outdoor campaign cannot be missed when people are on the streets. The industry will mature with the growth in Outdoor spends. Cutouts and Neon are considered innovations in the absence of specialist Outdoor design studios.


Q: How do you rate the change in the Indian OOH industry, especially in the past 3-4 years…? And according to you, what is it that will make OOH media more than just a reminder medium?

The more clients see pathbreaking billboard designs by specialist agencies, they will demand the same for their brand as well. This will lead to fantastic creative innovation in Outdoor advertising and billboards will not be considered a poor cousin of mainstream advertising. There are many brands even today that successfully use only Outdoor Advertising to communicate their message.



Q: How do you see the n-sync between the agencies, the media owners and the statutory authorities? And who according to you should take the initiative to improve the OOH industry overall?

To expect the media owners, agencies and statutory authorities to come and work together is far-fetched. The change has to be from within. I believe that if media owners offer international standard media formats and quality media displays to agencies, it will encourage better designs and print quality. This in turn will change the cityscape for the better. It has already started to happen with the introduction of street furniture, modern bus stops, etc.


Q: What according to you are the essentials of outdoor advertising?

There are five essential skill set components in outdoor advertising.

The first essential skill is creativity, the art of being innovative and imaginative. We must apply creativity to everything we do – tirelessly exploring innovative ways to communicate the brand USP in a meaningful, relevant way. The message has to break through and resonate with the consumer to be successful. Consumers are not waiting for your message. You must deliver it to them in an unexpected manner. An effective creative has an after-shock. It will be felt long after the campaign is over. When that happens, you’ve done your job. That’s creativity; you can’t put a price on.

The second skill is being media-savvy. With the media fragmentation increasing exponentially, each medium must be understood for what it is really capable of delivering. It must be targeted precisely and assessed with the end user in mind. As with the creative, media planning and placement must build the clients business.

The third is unyielding commitment. You are more than the agency; you must be an evangelist, preaching the virtues of your client to your staff, your client’s staff and public. We must be committed advocates as well as dedicated business partners. The entrepreneurial approach that we apply to each of our client’s business must be evident in every phase of the advertising development, from planning to creative to execution.

The fourth essential skill is discipline. At Encyclomedia, we assist clients in focusing on the compelling, differentiating selling points that include consumer consideration. We must never lose sight of that focus as we move from creative development through media planning and execution. We seek to reach the targeted consumers with an effective, focused communication to which they will respond.

The fifth is accountability. The bar is set with the client’s business objectives. Then we raise it a few notches higher. Our philosophy is the image-building and branding must always be balanced against the need to deliver on the bottom line. Advertising in Outdoor is a mean to an end, not an end in itself.


Q: What’s your take on breakthrough ideas in the OOH domain, especially in terms of the changing scenario?

Breakthrough ideas might appear to be instant or impulsive, but they are not. They are based on sound strategy, outstanding visuals, and the correct application of timing and media. The art is in ensuring that all elements of communication work together, so that the end result is more powerful and effective. It’s like conducting a symphony orchestra – all the instruments working together, the timing just right to make beautiful music. In outdoor advertising this is a total business solution.

We’re a very visual audience. The world is changing in so many ways. Today, television shows and movies are quickly clipped, with constant talking and constant cuts. There are no more long scenes. In outdoor advertising one must understand that this is how people consume information, so one must work to bring them in, but then your campaign must nurture them and be there for a long time. Remember that an outdoor medium is not a “speaker’s point”.


Q: And about the core component of the brand message?

It is important to understand the life cycle of a category, a brand, and a product to take a brand to the next level and drive long-term success. New brands must establish a niche. A mature brand must find new life, possibly by re-inventing itself through extension or by creating a new identity that connects with today’s consumers.


Q: Do you think the budget affects creativity and deliverables to the client?

Outdoor advertising will always, like any other advertising, be dependent on the brand’s budget to some degree. Having inadequate money to spend puts undue pressure on the advertising. Whether you have the budget or not, the advertising must be truthful, relevant, eyecatching, memorable and downright pleasing; only then will it go through to mind and memory of the consumer. Smart advertisers know that outdoor advertising helps develop brand awareness, and they select a specialist outdoor design and production agency to deliver the job.


Q: What’s the key to your success as a specialist OOH creative agency?

To be successful, you must be involved. You must take the time to learn your client’s business and brand attributes well. Let the client know that you care as much about the business as he or she does. Analyze the business, its chief competitor its unique culture, mission, vision and trends of the category it’s in. Most importantly, stay focused on brand attributes upon which the client can build. Be single-minded, literally. Don’t throw many attributes out there in the hope they’ll take away just one. Be certain the one is the one you want them to take away. If you don’t know your client’s business intimately, you are likely to focus on attributes that aren’t really important to the consumer, often at the client’s request. It’s your uncomfortable obligation to be honest and say, “That’s an attribute that has no meaning to the consumer.” Recommend what is right for business, what is supported by logic, research and solid, strategic thinking; that which differentiates your brand from the competition. Only then can you communicate in a compelling manner, cut through the clutter and attract interest and attention.

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