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“OOH needs to design bespoke strategies for clients”

By Bhawana Anand - April 21, 2020

Talking about the current uncertain market conditions, Bindu Balakrishnan, Country Head India-DCMN shares her viewpoint on OOH advertising

Bindu Balakrishnan, Country Head India-DCMN How do you see brands’ decision to withdraw marketing plans overall at this time? Is it a business-friendly decision?

It is certainly not a business-friendly approach as it will make a dent on the brand positioning and recognition in the market. However, it depends on each brand’s stage of growth and their financial robustness. Small-scale brands without enough financial cushion will have to focus on keeping their operations alive and paying their employees. Larger brands with decent investment back up may rethink their marketing strategies and reallocate marketing budgets to relevant media channels.

Marketing strategies during these critical times also depends on the nature of the business of brands. For instance, pure digital brands which have no human interface; think gaming, video streaming, e-learning, have become even more relevant and widely used due to the current situation.  It is the right time for them to give that extra push to their marketing and acquire more users.

For instance, as per a joint study by BARC & Nielsen, TV consumption went up by 37% since the lockdown started and genres such as News, movies & kids genres were the big beneficiaries. Digital channels & OTT consumptions have skyrocketed as well.  So, there are these hidden opportunities for brands to bank on.  However, it is also the time for sensitive advertising and be appropriate with the communications. Brands like Volkswagen and McDonalds have displayed this beautifully and talked about social distancing with the changes in their logos.  Smart, innovative and salient advertising is the way to go.

Even if you are a purely offline brand, don’t lose out on this opportunity to think long term (for example, revisit your brand strategy) and plan for the post-corona period

Currently the outdoor campaigns are terminated for a short duration but as this is an uncertain situation so when can we expect them to appear on outdoor media once again?

Once the situation starts to come under control, and the lockdown ends, brands will certainly make an appearance on the OOH medium, but the revival will be slow as the advertisers need to feel confident that the situation has indeed improved and people are back outdoors. But savvy brands can already think of catching the consumer’s attention and tap essential touchpoints according to the people movement such as hospitals, pharmacies, supermarkets. 

It is often said that brands should not go media dark for a longer duration, how do you see this impacting brands’ imagery and competition in the market for advertising on OOH?

Yes, totally agree.  Being media dark can hurt a brand.  In a country like India with its large population and cluttered media space, out of sight can indeed be out of mind.  So being silent for some time can hugely impact the brand recall.  So, when this is all over, brands will have to reinvest and work doubly hard to bring their brand back into the consumer’s mind and recover the lost ground.  But in the meantime, brands should continue to look for opportunities within the shifting media scenario and come up with smart and innovative marketing strategies to still remain relevant in its consumer’s mind, even during these unprecedented times.

As the consumers would take some time to stabilize the situation and revive their purchases slowly, what would be brands’ come back marketing plan across categories and their communication strategy?

It again varies from brand to brand and the nature of their business. And how much of an impact the lockdown has had on their business and marketing strategies.  Brands will continue to lean heavily on digital and TV and slowly start adding the more impacted media like radio, print & OOH back into their media mix. And also remember that even after the lockdown ends, the economic impact of it will last for a longer period. It will take some time for the consumer confidence to bounce back.  So, the brands would still have to be sensitive about appropriate communication and come up with well-thought through strategies and approach the consumer with an empathetic tone and innovative messaging.

How do you see the OOH industry coping up with this loss? What would be your suggestions to the outdoor industry in terms of reviving their clients’ trust and attention towards this medium?

The OOH industry has been severely hit these past couple of weeks and this impact will continue in the coming weeks as well. But the OOH industry has to take reassurance from the fact that this is temporary and soon as things come back to normal, brands will want to recover lost ground and advertise with renewed vigor.  Verticals which are heavily dependent on OOH for their advertising will invest heavily again.  OOH players should use this quiet time to think about their comeback strategy and how to mitigate the losses.  They should think about bespoke strategies for each category and its client base to offer unique and relevant OOH opportunities as per the individual brand. The revival of the OOH industry will be staggered depending on the pace at which the lockdown is eased and when public transport & air travel come back to normal again.



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