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IOAA to engage more deeply with authorities for key support to tide over current crisis

By Rajiv Raghunath - May 05, 2020

Media owners across the country urged to join IOAA in order for the OOH industry to act as one, with a unified voice

In a webinar hosted by the Indian Outdoor Advertising Association (IOAA) on ‘Survival & mitigation post lockdown for OOH’, the industry body’s senior leadership resolved to strongly follow up the representations that been made to Central, state and local government bodies for waiver of license fee and grant of other concessions to media owners under existing contracts in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic that has disrupted businesses everywhere. It was stated that some of the government departments have acknowledged receipt of the IOAA representation.

Citing that the waiver on the license fee is sought not just for the period of lockdowns, but for a longer period, until the impact of the pandemic on the trade reduces, which possibly could extend to the end of the current fiscal, the IOAA leadership decided to explore all possible ways to prevail upon the authorities to consider the industry’s plea favourably. Toward this, it was cited that relevant data points and analysis need to be put together to substantiate the impact of Covid-19 outbreak on the OOH media owning business, that in turn may exert a greater influence on the concerned decision makers when the IOAA representation is acted upon.

It was cited that the ‘Force-Majeure’ clause is applicable also to contracts where that clause is not explicitly stated. Clause 56 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 provides for the same.

IOAA has submitted the industry representation with over 75 municipal corporations and urban local bodies. To ensure that the representation is made to all such bodies pan-India, media owners and associations in different regions were urged to share the contact details of departments or corporations that have not been reached out to thus far, so that IOAA may further broaden its outreach and advocacy on the matter for the good of the industry.

The core strength of the industry body comes from its membership base, and toward that, the senior leadership exhorted the media owners across the country to subscribe to IOAA’s membership and thereby benefit from the collective efforts.

In this regard, it was also cited that IOAA is making progress toward commissioning the project for development of OOH audience measurement metrics. Considering that the project would entail costs in the range of Rs 10-12 crore, it would be incumbent on the majority if not all media owning firms to become IOAA members and also contribute to the financing of the project. In the coming times, a common industry currency would be all the more critical to the health of the OOH business.

Delayed payments from agencies has been a long-standing concern for the media owners. Today, as the business challenges mount, many of the media owners were having to deal with demands for cash discounts on long-overdue payments from certain specialist agencies. On this matter, the IOAA leadership, after much deliberation on the issue, decided to write to all specialist agencies that no discounts would be provided on payments due to the media owners until December 31, 2019. Hence, the agencies shall not set any such expectations from the media owners. At the same time, the IOAA members were urged not to deviate from this stand when pursuing the payments from the agencies.

Meanwhile, some of the discussions with the I&B ministry, initiated by senior industry leaders, have apparently begun to yield positive outcomes. It was stated during the deliberations that DAVP has now started to release pending payments to OOH agencies.

IOAA would also consider unfurling a pan-India campaign amplifying the industry’s critical roles in a spectrum of economic and social activities, that in turn will help make a strong case with the decision-makers and authorities for initiating steps that economically protect the OOH industry in these trying times. For this, a set of different creatives are to be planned, and the creatives would be displayed on vacant billboards across markets.

To address the particular industry issues at the regional level, the IOAA senior leadership suggested that they are open to participating in virtual meetings with government officials to be conducted by media owners in different markets.

It was pointed out that media owners in Punjab have evinced interest in establishing a Punjab chapter of IOAA.

The deliberations also covered the current situation of transit media business. Keeping in view the physical distancing that travellers and commuters are to maintain while on board planes, trains, buses, cabs and the like, there would be a sharp dip in the size of audiences for transit media. Hence, the transit media business is expected to make only a ‘soft start’ once the lockdowns end, it was surmised.

On the subject of audience size and quantum of license fee payment, an alternative suggestion made was that the OOH industry should look to prevail upon the concerned authorities to link the licensee fee sum to the OOH audiences available for particular formats. For instance, if the size of audience has reduced to a third owing to the pandemic and restrictions on traffic and people movement, then the licensee fee too needs to be scaled down to a third of the contracted fee. That would help the media operators to absorb the business shocks to some extent. Another suggestion was to make a case for staggered waivers of license fee, with gradual scaling up to full fee, to the concerned departments and bodies, as the business environment improves.

The IOAA Board will be considering the suggestions made in the course of the webinar and decide upon a plan of action in the coming days.


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