Shailesh Kapoor: OOH Media: Television Marketing’s Favourite Indulgence

04 Jul,2014

By Shailesh Kapoor


Two decades of satellite television in India have seen many changes, including some watershed ones. But the more things change, the more they remain the same. Sometimes, there can be greater insight hidden in what has remained the same, than what has changed. For the television business, it is their love for the outdoor media that has stood like a rock for two decades now.


This love started as a natural fallout of the reverence the television industry had for Bollywood in the early ’90s. Anything films would do for promotions was seen as cool and even effective. Never mind if measures existed or not, or if the target audience of the TV show in question had any connection with theatre audience profile or not. That being the context, “how many hoardings” was a very important question.


In one of my early assignments in 2000, I was in charge of launching a new weekly fiction series. Working with frugal marketing spends, we decided to stay away from the outdoor media. Little did we know what was in store for us. About two weeks before the launch, the producers decided to hold back episode deliveries because they felt their show was not being promoted well. “We don’t see any banners”.


An executive producer in the week before a show launch can be a bundle of raw nerves and hence a mess to deal with. “They are saying we don’t see any banners”. After decoding the terminology in my head (banners, hoardings, billboards, posters… all used interchangeably in India, I now know) I replied: “If they could see any, it won’t be short of a miracle. I don’t have a budget to take any outdoor on this launch.”


A day later though, I was at the producer’s office, showing them outdoor creative, and taking them through the Mumbai outdoor plan, which included about five hoardings, out of which at least two were in Juhu, within a couple of miles from the producer’s home-cum-office. I had been sanctioned an additional budget the previous evening to make this happen.


Conversations around buying strategic outdoor sites that senior management encounters on the way from or to their home are not uncommon. “It will be very visible to the MD when he goes for his morning walk,” I was once told.


Several channels invest in an outdoor plan to create buzz amongst the trade – the advertisers and the media planners. Perhaps that principle was valid in the ’90s. But today, non-digital media being used for trade marketing in the media industry can only be seen as a wasteful expense.


Regarding the impact of outdoor on consumer awareness or sampling of a new launch, the less said the better. We have conclusive large-sample evidence to prove that general outdoor media contributes (make that NOTHING) in a film’s marketing plan. But point-of-sales OOH, i.e., advertising in the theatre, is highly effective. For television though, ‘point-of-sale’ is at home. The closest outdoor media to it is the mode of transport that brings a person home – the local trains, the metros, the local buses, etc. Even for them, effectiveness is limited, given that many launches target an audience that hardly steps out of home. In smaller towns (<1 lac population), the medium delivers better results as 3-4 sites can cover a sizeable proportion of the city at a fairly low cost.


But the Mumbai story is one of indulgence and prestige, than one of intelligence and prudence. Upto 10-15% of marketing budgets of some launches are spent on just the Mumbai outdoor budget. There is no measurement of the impact. But by extension of that argument, there is no measurement of the wastage either. Little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, right?


This is a classic case of the “If I see my own campaign a lot, I feel my campaign is very visible” syndrome. The syndrome has stayed with the industry for two decades. Bollywood has nurtured it for more than five decades, though they are now questioning it more than ever before.


Hope television follows suit!


TV Trails is a weekly column written by Shailesh Kapoor, founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor


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