Sanjeev Kotnala: Feel the Real – when will we see OOH in India taking such an action?

02 Dec,2015

By Sanjeev Kotnala


OOH as a medium has always been sandwiched between traditional and emerging media. The traditional media brigade and the digital prosumers raise critical questions on OOH efficiency and effectiveness. Taking the bull by the horn and to demonstrate Real Power of OOH in driving digital engagement, OAAA (Outdoor Advertising Association of America, representing 90% of the industry revenues) and PNYC  (agency on record) launched “Feel the Real”, a huge campaign with more than 1600 OOH placements.


I know that nearer home the situation is a lot different. But just like US, we regularly question OOH efficiency and effectiveness. Much of it comes from our inability to assign numeric values to OOH exposure like we do for other media.


The campaign “Feel The Real” brings alive OOH as a REAL MEDIUM THAT REACHES REAL PEOPLE and helps drive significant digital engagement. Meanwhile, it takes a potshot at questioning the efficacy of digital; the new darling of media planners. It simply asks: How real is digital?


The campaign is simple. Rail posters say, “You are consuming an advertisement. You are real,” Telephone kiosks ask, “Media planners, do you have a reality problem?”. Some signs close to media agencies call out the agency’s name or its executives.



Stephen Freitas, Chief Marketing Officer of the OAAA in his interaction points out that   “The ‘Feel the real’ campaign highlights conventional reasoning that nearly half of the money spent on digital has been lost due to fraud and misrepresentation. Digital is suffering a reality problem, and we want to show how OOH – a real, tangible and quantifiable medium – can drive consumers to digitally engage with brands,”


The campaign aims at building awareness of OOH’s ability to track and increase digital effectiveness and encourage media planners to incorporate more OOH advertising into their plans. It aims to drive conversation about the significance of real versus digital and ensure OOH gets the credit it deserves and to encourage media planners to view OOH ads as a medium that can accelerate a campaign’s digital, social and mobile elements.


Now this may be in many ways be far ahead of the OOH-technology curve for India but we are fast getting there. There is a constant questioning of efficacy, effectiveness, clutter and avoidance of ads in other traditional and emerging media. It is the right time for OOH in India to take on the new technology by the horn and strike. To do so, it first needs to invest into technology and not be satisfied with stunts on sites.


The US campaign was timed with the New York City’s Advertising Week. The real B2B campaign targeted media agencies and planners while making a larger call to the public to engage with the real world. It used static and digital OOH placements near media agencies and on heavily travelled commuter routes.


The placements directed the viewers to The site playfully brings alive the fact how OOH can both complement and accelerate digital, social and mobile advertising.


It is world that is in flux out there. In digital, data is available for host of parameters, but in recent times it has been losing credibility.   The industry is divided and is unsure whether real people view the digital ads. Additionally, the ads can be tucked away in non-viewing corners and may be traffic figures are the result of computerised ‘Bots’ without any real human being ever seeing them.


OOH in the campaign  “Feel the Real,” suggests that in a world where digital and its ability to deliver what it promises is under significant scrutiny, out-of-home has a unique and compelling point of view that having one foot grounded in the real world matters. Placements like billboards and transit shelters don’t suffer such issues.


The site was interesting. When one lands at the site, a question is posed- if you had seen one of OOH ads. To make life easy, four playful options are provided from. “Yes, I saw it in the real world”, “Yes, I saw it online”, “No, I heard about it” and finally the cheeky one “No, I’m a robot.”


OAAA and PNYC are collecting the data on traffic and engagement with the campaign’s site to demonstrate OOH ability to drive digital effectiveness. One of the questions pointedly asks if the visitor is from advertising and media. If they can show the tribe being engaged they will make the results stick.


Once you are engaged, the site takes you through a visual build-up that points out wastage in digital spends making a point that only 8% spends are really seen and thus effective.


It then goes on to make an offer and tells you OOH can help


I enjoyed the cheeky ‘How Real Are You’ game at the site. It asked me which all of the listed 20 activities was I involved in the last 30 days. The activities listed included things like Held a baby, accidentally clicked on a banner ad, sang or played an instrument with others, had a good cry, read a book to created a hastag.Once I played the game it declared me to be 40% real and suggested a host of activities to enhance my REAL quotient. These included, make a fort in your room using blankets and cushions, Eat breakfast outside, pick your own fruit from the tree, Go look for more OOH advertising, walk barefoot, swim underwater etc.… GO CHECK  HOW REAL YOU ARE at 


If you were not from media and advertising- it proposed that people are forgetting what it is to be a real person living in the real world. Then it shares some stark statistics. I am sure that maybe behind in OOH digital technology but these statistics maybe very much nearer to us. Things like-

  • 56% of Social Media Users Suffer From FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
  • 47 % of teens agree that they get uneasy or nervous when they learn through social media that some of their friends or peers are doing something that they are not.
  • 50% prefer digital communication; half of all Americans say they prefer to communicate digitally than talk in person, according to a Time Inc. study.
  • 24% have missed out on experiences: 24% of people say they’ve missed out on enjoying special moments in person because they were too busy trying to document their experiences for online sharing


The outdoor medium’s growth in US has been fuelled by new digital billboards that can be updated dynamically and its ability to reach mass audiences in transit. For a marketer, out-of-home ads are appealing because they can’t be skipped or fast-forwarded like TV ads recorded on a DVR. Unlike digital ads, ad fraud isn’t much of a concern when it comes to buying billboards.


In India, the OOH industry is still remains highly fragmented and unregulated. It can be argued that soon the OOH in India will also become a lot more digitally dominated where quick changes and time-share on the properties will be a reality. The integration with the digital platform is an eventuality. The process will hasten if the clients put money behind experimentation and technology.


So, will the OOH association in India wait for the problem to be identified or will it take some proactive actions in making media planners re-evaluate the medium and the constituent members to self-regulate.


Article based in initial write-up by Nathalie Tadena in Wall Street, The press release by OAAA and the experience at


Sanjeev Kotnala is Founder at Intradia World. A Brand, Marketing & Management Advisor. He conducts specialised workshops in the area of IDEATION (Harvest and Liberate) and INNOVATION (InNoWait). He focuses energy in enhancing client’s team’s potential and capabilities and decreasing their dependence  on external resources. Email  or tweet @s_kotnala visit The views here are his own.


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