On his maiden visit to India, Marc-Antoine de Roys, Global CEO, Kinetic Worldwide reveals his ambitious plan for the country, which is to make Kinetic’s Indian business as big as China, their largest market.
BY SAMARPITA BANERJE
The Out-of-Home (OOH) industry, possibly the oldest medium of advertising, is perhaps also the most resilient. It is one medium that has managed to stand the test of time and continue growing, despite the changes in the overall advertising ecosystem. And why not? Consider this: a person today spends a considerable amount of time in daily commute, either on the road, the subway or on the bus. In this scenario OOH is one medium that has the potential to instantly grab eyeballs, build an immediate connect with consumers and make a huge impact. Throw in some innovations, add a digital touch, and the oldest medium can easily rival any of the new-age advertising mediums.
The advent of Digital OOH has seen more and more marketers loosen their purse strings and explore the endless possibilities that this medium can offer. It is this potential that Marc-Antoine de Roys, Global CEO, Kinetic Worldwide, WPP’s out-of-home media planning and buying agency, wants both advertisers as well as the OOH industry to wake up to.
“I want to make OOH more famous, and this is pretty much the ambition of a lot of players in the industry today,” said De Roys, on his recent trip to India. Despite being a dynamic medium with widespread reach, OOH has not been able to grow as fast as some of the other mediums like TV and Digital. One of the primary reasons for this is the lack of accountability and measurability, which has made marketers wary of putting in big money. Given this scenario, how does one make the medium more appealing to marketers?
For De Roys, the solution is greater integration between all the concerned stakeholders; be it media owners, agencies or even competition. “Working together would help all of us work better. We could coordinate a number of actions which would allow us, as an industry, to make the medium famous,” he adds.
POSITIONING OF THE OOH INDUSTRY TODAY
The year 2017 was a difficult one, not just for Indian advertising, but globally too, and it wasn’t very different for Kinetic. De Roys reveals that the agency saw flat growth for the first time in years, owing to reasons ranging from the loss of a few clients to advertisers curbing overall OOH spend. However, the year 2018, he said, has started on a positive note, and he sees an upward trend in most markets where the agency operates.
That said, from an Indian perspective, the past year has been good for Kinetic India. It is currently handling blue-chip names that include the likes of Google, Netflix and Facebook - companies that bet big on OOH and also are among the biggest spenders for the medium in the country. What has also added to the cheer is the agency’s big-ticket account wins in the past few months, which include Star India, Honda Cars India, Maruti Suzuki and Exide. Kinetic India’s billings were close to the tune of Rs 500 crore last year, a 10% jump over the previous year.
Going forward, Suresh Balakrishna, CEO, South Asia and Middle East, Kinetic Worldwide says that he is optimistic about the year ahead and is confident of achieving the set targets. “2018 has started off well for us. The first quarter numbers are looking strong. We have predicted aggressive growth rate projections in India for 2018, because we anticipate it to be a much better year than 2017. And we are very much on track so far,” he says.
DIGITAL OOH: THE GAME-CHANGER
The solid performance in the past few months can also be attributed to the launch of the agency’s proprietary tool, Aureus last year. Given the fact that the OOH medium in India is cluttered and highly fragmented with measurability being a major concern for advertisers, the tool is designed to work with all partners in the OOH media value chain, including business associates, agency buyers and planners, and advertisers, with the aim of delivering smarter OOH Media planning for every campaign. So far, Aureus has proved to be a game-changer for the agency as it guarantees seamless planning. Remarks Balakrishna, “Aureus has been a game-changer for us ever since its launch. The credit for many of our recent account wins; be it Star India, Maruti Suzuki or Honda, goes to the tool. Clients have been pleasantly surprised at the fact that even OOH can be planned in a reasonably sophisticated way.”
While India is still operating on Aureus 1, the global markets have upgraded to the second version of the tool. As per Balakrishna, if things fall in place, Kinetic will be launching Aureus 2 in India by the end of this year.
Globally, OOH is the only traditional medium that has seen consistent growth and this growth can be ascribed to marrying Digital with OOH. The increased shift to Digital signage and innovations has resulted in significant expansion in OOH, be it in Europe, US and even Asia. However, where does India figure in the global scheme of things? According to De Roys, while India does not figure in the top five markets for the agency currently, the growth opportunity is immense. “Currently, India is performing in line with the rest of the markets. The potential here is massive when you compare it to several other markets. Today, the Indian market’s size almost equals the size of the Thailand market. However, in my mind, there is no reason why India cannot become the size of the China market, which brings in the maximum business for us. This means we need to grow the market about tenfold here. However, I hope it happens quickly,” he adds.
“WHAT OTHER MARKETS ACHIEVED IN 5-10 YEARS, WILL NEED TO BE ACHIEVED BY US IN TWO”
Suresh Balakrishna, CEO, South Asia and Middle East, Kinetic Worldwide talks about the scope of the OOH industry from an Indian perspective…
On Accountability: The Indian Outdoor Advertising Association (IOAA) is making efforts to improve accountability in the industry. They have increased their membership base, and are trying to get everybody on the same page to work on a syndicated study. However, large agencies like us are trying to find our own ways to track measurability of the medium. Today, clients are looking for accountability and asking what the medium is doing for their brand. While we have Aureus that helps us with measurement, we are also working closely with Kantar and Nielsen this year to come up with a new measurement practice. We need to provide answers to our clients and we are working aggressively on it from an agency perspective.
On increasing interest in advertisers for location-based campaigns: More and more advertisers are getting excited about cutting-edge technology like geo-fencing for their OOH campaigns, and technologybased companies like Facebook and Google are leading the way. Our recent campaign for Google Maps – its creative, the evolution of the idea, as well as the whole purpose was locationbased. Similarly, everybody is into micro-marketing these days. Each client has his own areas where the brand is doing well or other criteria. Therefore, the focus of OOH is on location-based marketing. Today, thanks to the availability of data, advertisers are able to pinpoint and tell us whether a particular location needs a different kind of treatment, and the solution could range from doing a new creative, to marrying it with mobile, to doing some geo-fencing at the location, or even sending consumers to a particular store. OOH is the best suited medium for such micro-location marketing. While a lot of brands are taking this very seriously, some are still experimenting with it.
On the importance of innovation to break clutter: I believe we, as an agency, have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation. The last two years have been fabulous for us, in terms of our body of work. No other medium can be as innovative as OOH. Other mediums like TV or Print have their restrictions and limitations. We, however, can bring alive a whole gamut of consumer experiences. Innovation is a part of our DNA and most clients expect exactly that from us, so it works well on both counts for us.
On the scope of Digital OOH in India: While the presence of Digital OOH is currently restricted largely to airports and malls, things are moving in the right direction. In a month’s time, we expect the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to pass a tender for putting up 100 digital screens in South Mumbai. The document is expected to be released soon. BMC will give us a month to respond to it, just in case the industry has any reservations around the guidelines. Once that is cleared, the tender will be opened. I believe that once the BMC does this, other cities will follow suit. Moreover, metro pillars which are increasingly coming up in different cities can be used for putting up digital screens too. I expect to see an explosion in the availability of digital inventory in the country in the next two years, which will help fuel growth.
On the challenges ahead: India is a land of opportunities and more than looking at this as a challenge, I look at it as an opportunity. While the industry has been growing, the rate of growth needs to accelerate. Some of the larger challenges of any growing market are how to expand the market, how to get brands to buy more OOH ads, how to get media owners to become more organized in a fragmented market like India, how to put in place standardized procedures, how to standardize ways of doing business, and how to become more transparent as a medium. However, these are challenges that most markets have faced. Even the global markets have gone through an evolution process. For us, the challenge is to speed up this evolution process. What other markets achieved in 5-10 years, will need to be achieved in two years by us. The challenge for us is thus to move faster than other markets, but I have no doubt that we will do that, and we will probably reach there well ahead of anybody else.
THE FUTURE: MOBILE + OOH
With the rapid growth of location-based marketing communication on the back of increased smartphone penetration, marketers now have a multitude of options to target consumers. This has led to traditional mediums, such as Television, Print and Radio, jumping on to the Digital bandwagon in one format or the other. Experts predict that the convergence of mobile and OOH will be the next big thing for the OOH industry. This is not simply in terms of contextual targeting, but also in terms of increased use of data, as well as social amplifications.
It is this opportunity that De Roys believes will drive the next phase of growth for the industry, as well as for Kinetic. Elaborating on this he says, “There is so much we can do with the mobile. The power of OOH, when enhanced by mobile, is incredible. It may not be exponential, but it is incredible. It can help in amplifying campaigns through social media or have consumer interactions with an ad through QR codes.”
Moreover, mobile can also help drive better measurability for the industry in the future, which is one of the biggest challenges that the industry is facing today. Comments De Roys, “Measurability is a problem everywhere and not just in India. However, some markets like the UK have put in place some industry data which allows us to position the OOH medium better, and more and more players are working on addressing the issue.” He continues, “Mobile, again is the solution for us today. Measurement is difficult in the OOH ecosystem because of the spread of the market. Owing to the huge number of assets in the industry, it is almost impossible to control and monitor. You could send people physically on the ground to take pictures, but even then you can never be 100% sure about the accuracy. With different mobile technologies coming in, however, we will be able to track and monitor everything much more efficiently and not only report on delivery, but also add other relevant information like traffic counts and get contextual information.”
Currently, Kinetic India’s market share is between 18-20%. It will be interesting to see how the agency gains more mileage on the back of its proprietary tools, increased Digital and data usage and innovations; and how it manages to capture the attention of the traveller on the go.