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‘Collaboration is key to growth’

By Bhawana Anand - January 06, 2020

Agam Chaudhary, CMO of Digitalabs highlights the growing influence of technology on brand communication, and the need for different media channels to collaborate. Edited excerpts:

Agam Chaudhary, CMO,DigitalabsHow best do you think digital and mobile media can complement OOH?

OOH media unlike channels like digital media has no skip button, so it is highly visible. When you link OOH with digital and mobile media channels, the advertising impact is sustained for a much longer duration. Take, for instance, a powerful OOH communications that is executed on Delhi NCR’s DND Flyway. The particular ad display may attract the consumer attention for a few seconds only, but with an extended collaboration with other channels like digital and mobile media that communication can be sustained with the target audiences for a longer time. Such collaborations can go a long way to augment the OOH impact.

Even when a brand launches a multi-media campaign, an integrated approach to media planning is not quite evident. Is there a way to work around this issue?

Indeed! The major factor contributing to such a siloed approach is the lack of knowledge about different ad formats. That is, the particular brand marketer or the agency involved in the media planning may not have a deep understanding of all the formats, be they digital, TV, OOH and others. However, the advertising brand would still need a combination of the media channels to make the communication effective.

There are many brands that get this right. Take the case of Volvo’s brand activities undertaken during the US Superbowl where even a 10 second commercial incurs a huge cost. The auto brand executed a twitter campaign instigating the audience to tweet whenever they see any automobile advertisement on TV – and they stood a chance to win a free car. This worked for the brand as people started tweeting instead of concentrating on the TVCs because mobiles are so handy these days. Consequently, all those automobile brands pulled out their TVCs.

These kinds of smart innovations using digital and other technologies are quite impactful, but at the same time, the brand should be prepared for some out-of-the-box activities.

Gone are the days when the media formats would work independently. It is imperative for the marketers to work closely with the agencies for planning the media mix, etc.  

Do you think that mainline agencies need to make a bigger effort to bring about the collaboration that you are referring to?

Today, while all major media groups have specialist wings for TV, print, digital, OOH and others, when it comes to an integrated approach, there is seemingly some discomfort amongst the OOH people when the other wings are there in a meeting.  I have witnessed this personally while attending meetings with the outdoor wing of LMG. I am not familiar with the reason behind that discomfort. However, if I were to be in the OOH, I would welcome the presence of other specialists in the meeting and explore the possibility of collaborations.

How can that change come about?

According to me, the OOH industry is pretty open to working with digital and technology partners. The challenge is that OOH advertising generally works on the principle of scale and thinner profit margins. In fact, most of the times, I have experienced that OOH campaign mandates are assigned to an agency which quotes a little less and gives a greater number of sites.

I believe that the problem doesn’t lie with the outdoor specialist agencies but on the brands’ side, where they need to be more open to multi-media collaborations. They should be prepared to experiment on this front.

In the developed nations, there are different kinds of collaborations happening across the outdoor formats. Recently, Peugeot executed a campaign where energy is generated from sound to power their silent electric cars. It was a beautiful innovation and convinced people to talk about it organically. However, in India, the challenge is that such infrastructure is way too costly.

What all this call for more investments by the OOH firms?

Every time it is not about high-tech outdoor formats. For instance, LMG has done a mammoth installation for Jeep Compass on the Mumbai-Pune highway, which is executed aesthetically, giving the right mileage to the brand and it is economical. You could also use technology effectively in controlled environments to influence buyers. It is very much possible to convert existing formats into highly innovative media.

The challenge is that most communications across all advertising channels miss the Call to Action feature.

Are the technologies that transform the media available in the Indian market?

I think so. At the same time, high-tech infrastructure can be imported from abroad. There are unique technologies available in the market which can be used for innovations to take the communication to the next-level.

For instance, in our office the entire attendance system is based on Alexa where our employees don’t punch in but speak to Alexa to mark their attendance. And now we are working on adding a feature where Alexa would be able to greet employees with different messages on the basis of their tonality and emotion. So, these basic innovations can be done anywhere.

Hypothetically, if a person enters in a mall and someone greets him/her and informs them that about the promotion or offers them a discount coupon, automatically the curiosity and conversions will go up. Digital is able to amplify any communication and further cookies, etc., can be pulled down to ensure seamless communication.

Are digital technologies helping OOH attract more eyeballs, while also creating audience measurement metrics?

There are tools designed for media planning which pick the best suitable site on the basis of the requirement. Though there is no real-time measurement tool to identify the efficacy of campaigns, but if a campaign is clubbed with KPI or CTA then probably digital can help in that. For instance, ZEE5 did a campaign where on the basis of traffic they were sending out communications -- there was a CTA attached to it. Hence the moment, brands start pulling up such CTAs, their job will be done and rest digital can take care of.

With widespread use of smartphones, what innovative possibilities are there to be leveraged by OOH?

Smartphones are with consumers all the time and so mobiles can be pivotal for meaningful engagements. However, agencies are not yet innovating with smartphones. We are working on wearable devices which is going to take advertising and marketing to the next level.

Mobiles or laptops will go away in a decade’s times and wearable devices such as eye glasses and smart watches are going to change the interaction phenomenon by making them personalised. For a brand to ensure that they are not missing the bus, they need to do all kinds of digital innovations at this point of time to understand personalisation, and the kind of KPIs that can be delivered to the brands.

It will be interesting to see that when and how the Indian OOH industry is going to accept it but it is going to happen soon as every third  person is attached with some kind of wearable device, so if one particular brand or agency is not considering it then some other brand/agency will surely give attention to it.

How do you see DOOH developing in the Indian OOH ecosystem?

I feel that if the authorities decide to ban something, first they need to come out with a solution because being an authority they are elected to do that. Merely passing a law will not help anybody; many will lose their jobs or business will shut down.

I have experienced some roadblocks while dealing with the authority as there is a huge set of negative elements in different businesses who try to influence them. Authorities need to organise meetings or seminars where agencies or experts from that particular subject can come and educate them because without getting proper knowledge, it is hard to understand the consequences.

Could you mention any Indian campaign executed in a collaborative manner while using OOH?

I guess Zomato’s MC BC campaign was a beautiful execution. They have an online business where they wanted to bring people on to their apps. But I think there is a long journey for the Indian industry to generate marvelous campaigns of international standards.

What would be your message to OOH, digital and mainline agencies on the collaboration front?

My first  message would be to start collaborating. Second, brands need to be cognizant that collaboration delivers superior numbers. That will be a win-win situation for both brands and agencies.

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