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‘We’ve to give clients what they want’

By - August 09, 2021

Highlighting the imperatives for Indian OOH in a changing business environment, Noomi Mehta, Chairman, Indian Outdoor Advertising Association (IOAA) shares his perspectives on how OOH needs to align with the new realities and the steps being taken by the apex OOH body to bring the industry up to speed.

Noomi Mehta, Chairman<br>Indian Outdoor Advertising Association (IOAA) The great Indian Outdoors is facing a serious challenge of relevance in a fast changing world. Technology has overtaken every aspect of our lives, from work habits, to entertainment, to digital social interaction. Even money has not been spared, with Virtual Money and Bitcoins now proving to be viable alternatives. Visits to the bank? How quaint; no one does that any more. Writing cheques? Strictly referred to in the past tense. The way we eat, what we eat, our choice of food is now remote-controlled and mostly ordered online. But what about our OOH media? Ho hum, same old, same old! And we dream of a turnaround?

The only turnaround so far has been our going around in circles, with no real united game plan. But that is about to change. We have realised that doing what we have always done will simply get us what we have always got -- a sub-par performance. So, now realise -- we have to give the clients what they want.

So, what do clients want. Four things:

  • Provable measurements
  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Ease of doing business

Provable measurements. The media owners and agencies are finally addressing this long desired metric. This will need a common currency, a will to find ways of doing the study and getting the process certified. We have established that the need is a route-based study and not a location based one. Technology has come as a blessing and we are finally able to conduct the exercise with an earth-bound budget and not deal with sky high estimates.

Our study will conduct the basic common framework on which agencies can extrapolate their unique understanding, studies and resources and make presentations to their clients. The study will be undertaken with the support of all relevant stakeholders, the clients, the agencies and the media owners.

Progress by IOAA. A committee has been set up, headed by Rachana Lokhande, to undertake this vital task. In keeping with the ‘catch them young’ slogan we have ensured that the younger generation is fully involved in this committee.

Accountability. Third party audit systems are being looked at to provide verifiable proof of performance. There is a hope that this activity can be merged with a periodic Ad Ex Report, to give greater information on the state of the OOH activity.

Progress by IOAA. This work is closely allied with technology and measurement and is being looked after by the same committee headed by Rachana.

Transparency. Clients want to know vacancies and rates across the board. We are attempting to collate all this information on the IOAA website. Of course, this information is purely voluntary, but as the business improves its systems for automation and then finally programmatic (the holy grail!) this will become a necessary step. After all, clients cannot book a site they know nothing about! This will also reduce the expenditure on middlemen and site aggregators.

Progress by IOAA. An Executive Committee has been formed headed by Shailender Luthra, packed with youngsters to look into adoption of technology in our IOAA. We intend to get busy on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms of information dissemination. They will reach out to media owners to explain the benefits of stepping into this brave new world and will even do some hand-holding as the first few step are taken. We hope to give the clients and agencies so much information that they cry Enough!

Ease of business. Do we really need to courier photographs as proof of display from places as far away as Aizawl, Kohima and Agartala? Some of these places require a pass which takes up to 3 days to process! Can’t we dump it on a ‘Cloud’? Do agencies really need to make frantic phone calls for hoarding plans? Do media owners and their staff really need to type up reams of locations, time after time, every time?

If it’s on a website together with availability information, all it would take is a simple software solution to click a mouse and all available sites, rates, photographs and route measurements could be accessed. Booking would be another click of the mouse. No short-changing clients, no displaying another ‘equal  site’, no short period booking, no Purchase Order delay, no cancellation because XYZ happened.

We are easily amongst the easiest businesses to automate but we have not, as yet. Who suffers most? We do. Because our bookings are delayed, cumbersome and irritating. Because we prefer being opaque to being transparent, for no sensible reason other than “that’s how it has always been”. We need to change “please do business with us” to “ease of doing business with us”.

Progress by IOAA. We are looking at Gen Next to fix the problem and give us a new system. They are already in action in our Executive Committee.

This is enough information for now. It is easier to report than to work as the Indian Bureaucracy well knows. Unfortunately we are more accountable and cannot hide behind mysterious layers of security, national or otherwise. For now we need to work at making serious progress. Now that the Lockdown is being eased, may the only ‘Surge’ we see be the surge in our bookings! Cheers!

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