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Kinetic's dynamic duo on digital, future & more

By M4G Bureau - May 27, 2013

The company's leading men Steve Ridley, CEO -Global and King Lai, CEO - Asia Pacific share their views on the outlook of the outdoor industry both at the national and global level.

Kinetic Worldwide, one of the world's leading planners and buyers of the OOH media, is a company that sets store by connect between brands and consumer lifestyles. Its annual research report'Moving World India' stands as a testimony to their commitment to understanding customers. The company's leading men Steve Ridley, CEO -- Global and King Lai, CEO -- Asia Pacific, were in Mumbai and Outdoor Asia seized the opportunity to chat up with them on their outlook for the outdoor industry both at the national and global level. Following are excerpts from the interview -  

Q) Could you tell us how Kinetic looks at the Indian market from a global perspective? And, what are your plans for India? 

Steve - It's a nice environment to be in, India is a very exciting place as the willingness to innovate is very high. Yes there is certain amount of disorganization, but you see things certainly getting better. A lot of infrastructure is getting built in India which will help the OOH industry. This and the advertising media environment with their tech savvy consumers make it all the more exciting. So yes there is a fantastic future. But for a market growing so quickly, control, regulation and organisation are always a challenge.
We have promising plans for India; we intend to use international technology in India and also take away things from the Indian market into other areas. Our focus for future development in India is to spend time building proprietary planning products, proprietary systems and see how they can fit and assist in upraising the Indian and other developing markets.  

Q) How is India different from Asia-Pacific region, and how does Kinetic tackle this difference?

King - Asia like other parts of the world has countries with different growth rates and different rates of development. For India, along with China and Indonesia, with its huge scale and populations, we have big hopes and ambitions. As Steve pointed out, India takes a lot of pride in its innovation and technology. The human capital is a huge asset here and the people are energetic and very dynamic in tackling any challenge that comes along.
 
Q) Share with us the peculiarities and challenges you see in the Indian OOH market? And how does one induce sanity to these issues?

Steve - In developing markets where you have unprecedented hyper growth, the physical environment is constantly evolving and changing. The OOH sector is most affected by this as dealing with the physical changes in the environment is imperative in our industry. Here you need very robust and methodical systems in place that help you manage this evolution. Thus for me developing these systems is right at the top of the agenda. While the matured markets have established infrastructures and applications, in countries like India and China there is leapfrogging in terms of adoption of knowledge. This is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Q) Indian OOH is a tough nut to crack. What is your take on these turbulent situations? And, how has Kinetic managed to pass through it? 

Steve - There is lot of churn in the Indian market that you see throughout. I think the challenge is when you have clients who are very image conscious and want to make sure their display really says something about the product. The extra effort that has to go in to make sure that happens and continues to happen consistently is just a bit harder in a market like India.   
Retail is an interesting space in India. We will see a lot of things happening; things that are sophisticated and things which will be different from the rest of the world. We might even see an occasional global format, though it will be slow to catch up. My thinking is that it going to be about infrastructure. 

King -  We have experienced positive energy and a positive outlook in India. So our people, as compared to other players in the market, are very stable. That is a positive indication that people are happy where they are and the dynamic environment in the team is forward looking and progressive. We are doing new things and motivating the people by challenging them and giving them the best.         

Q) What is Kinetic's focus on digital? How receptive is the Indian market to digital? How does it compare with other markets?

Steve - It really does vary across the world in terms of development. And, it varies in its use across different countries. China is the most advanced when it comes to digital OOH environment. There they say - 'why bother with something static when you can go digital'. One of the key advantages of having digital media is the fact that you can address huge quantities very quickly and you can change your message. In the US there was a lot of digital development and then during the world economic crisis, the venture capital fund which was fuelling this was dried up. And then there was a rapid consolidation. I would say that it has lost its way and has not gone to the critical masses quickly as one would imagine. So I think at this moment there no one country that has the advantage. India too hasn't developed quickly. But I think when it does happen it will be more evolved taking learning's from other countries and implementing them in a more constructive way, unlike in the US where there was a lot of investment going into things that were not in use anymore. It's an evolving picture in every market, but it will be very exciting going forward from here. There will be real time audiences, but it will change the concepts of planning and it's going to be a brave new world. I believe at some point of time, the cost of the digital infrastructure will plummet and it will be more cost efficient as compared to the traditional media. 
At Kinetic, we know it and we believe in it. We have a sister company in the US that is looking at digital OOH and is doing a lot of audience based research. We have brought some online ads on to the digital OOH. So we are essentially taking the money out of online and putting it in OOH and thereby expanding the possibilities of the medium.  

Q) Could you share some international trends as far as brand spending on OOH is concerned?

Steve - There have always been some traditional stalwarts of the medium who have always supported the medium. Telecom for instance, is a strong supporter. In a lot of markets there is this great battle between Apple and Samsung and they tend to get this battle onto the street i.e. OOH. Certainly you see consumer groups increasing their spends when the quality of the format changes. Remember when UK changed from the standard poster to the backlit format, all the big consumers started spending on the medium because they could get magazine style quality in the OOH medium.
Going forward, the opportunity lies in understanding the consumer, specifically in understanding the consumer journey and how it differs with different demographic profile, different product categories and at different times of the day. That innate understanding makes the difference.
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