Laqshya Media Group
As Bollywood movies define- Everyone has a happy ending. If it is not happy then it's not the end. The journey of this OOH specialist agency story is not less than a dramatic, action-packed story where the agency almost arrived on the edge of giving up, but then they bounced back in the OOH game and ended up becoming one of the top agencies of Indian OOH industry. Laqshya Media Group is, today, handling top clients of all major categories including Automobile, E-Commerce, Jewellery and etc. Therefore, to understand the efforts consistently invested by their team to handle such big accounts and the flavour of the last festive season, Allaboutoutdoor.com roped in Atul Shrivastav - Group CEO, Laqshya Media Group for a detailed conversation. Below are the edited excerpts of the interview.
How has been the festive season for OOH industry till now? How profitable has this been for Laqshya Media Solutions? Could you share the percentage of profit?
Profitability will be calculated at the end of the financial year so it would be early to comment on that. But yes this year Diwali being in the month of October reduced the peak season span compared to the previous years. In the last 2-3 years, Diwali was falling in the Mid-November which led to additional 15-21 days of peak season starting from Mid-September till November end. And definitely, it used to have the real essence and fun of the festival season. However, this year everything got concluded around 31st October or may be even 5 days prior to that as quite a few sites were vacant prior to Diwali. Cumulatively, this festival season wasn't as revenue driven as it used to be in the previous years.
How do brands see OOH medium differently during festive time in comparison with rest of the year? How their budgets, expectations and media planning vary during festive season? Could you share the percentage of their budgets shot up this in comparison with non-festive season?
It is a myth that brands do discrepancy with OOH medium during peak season, however, the truth is that this happens with all sorts of advertising formats. For instance, if you see Print medium, during the festive season around 2-4 supplements come as the number of print ads also increase. Festival time, brands spend on all sorts of means of communications because during this time, people like to spend on various things like whitewash or decoration, replace furniture or buy new clothes. Additionally, most of the companies disperse their bonus on Diwali so naturally people get the capacity to spend more. And considering all this, every seller wants to encash this opportunity. This has become a regular phenomenon that the demand goes high during this time of year, no matter which advertising medium it is. Sharing increasing budgets would be difficult because the actual escalation of budgets never gets utilised because most of the clients don't get sites. For instance, if a client wants to spend 5 crore; may not get even 10 sites of his choice. But, yes there is an escalation in budgets which goes up say by 30%-40% around festive time on a monthly basis.
How can agencies revive brands' budgets and interests for OOH medium after the festive season?
Indeed the OOH market becomes quite dull immediate after Diwali. The good thing is it doesn't stay for a very long time as this scenario exist maximum of 10 days or 2 weeks. After that lot of positivity comes back in the market with the arrival of Christmas & New-Year. However, the company's requirement for advertising always continues throughout the year.
We can't do anything on the seasonality factor. We as an agency can only suggest the medium by advocating its advantage. Ultimately, it is up to the client that when they see an opportunity in the market and like to spend money accordingly. Or if there is any launch so they have to advertise for that or to revive the sales of any product to give a thrust. Unfortunately, there is not much an agency can do to influence a client. It is the requirement of the client and then we try to explain to them that how OOH fits into their requirement and create a cost-effective medium. Interestingly, brands understand that the media consumption happening in the homes is coming down and people forcibly grasp the information on outdoors. Moreover, with the improving quality of this medium, people are taking this medium earnestly.
Desired media planning & getting iconic sites becomes difficult during festive season. How do you get the best deals and maximum attention for your clients?
There are two factors behind that; Foremost the team is quite knowledgeable and innovative which makes it possible. Second, Laqshya has an equity behind its name due to which media -owners are always willing to support us during the time of need. Our relationship with media owner fraternity is a mutual give-take bond. Whenever media owners need any support , we make sure that we help them in every possible manner. Likewise when we need a support from them, they stand by us. And it is not that 100% things are achieved but yes, largely it gets managed. Our approach is pretty clear that we don't like to disturb other on-going campaigns. But whatever best proposition can be found, we surely take them.
Laqshya Media Group is a complete bouquet of OOH business as you operate as agency and media owners as well. Which entity is more profitable for the company and what are the percentages of contribution of both businesses?
It would be hard to judge the more profitable venture because both have been doing well. But yes I can say that out of our total turnover, 65%-70% turnover comes from our Solution Business, therefore our agency vertical is definitely much more robust and strong. We got into media acquisition business because we were facing challenges in providing the sites during the peak seasons. Therefore, we took the decision to have some key sites for ourselves to meet availability challenges. We started as an agency in 1997 and for quite a few years we continued with this business then later on, we got into media assets business as well.
We have sites in key cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, and etc which are strategic sites. We do have plans to expand our assets business. It could be the focus of our next financial year business plan. To gain the experience and qualification of handling different kinds of project, we invested in quite few expensive projects such as public utility, escalator based FOBs or street furniture in the past. We are definitely going to participate in such tenders which offer new formats of OOH Media.
You have certain clients which are the biggest spenders in their categories such as Maruti & Tanishq. What efforts does it take to handle such clients which are very particular in demands and deliveries?
It isn't that difficult because, I feel that Laqshya has the highest client retention rate as compared to any other independent OOH Agency. This has been possible because of the quality of the service, the execution capability, value for money options and requisite ROI on clients' investments provided by our team. When these things are taken care and ROI delivered to the clients, then why would brands try any new agency. It is not a day or an overnight job, we deliver consistently and win the confidence of the client. Can share the case of LG Electronics , where our first business was just one city some 8-10 years back. Within a year, we were handling their 90% of business, despite competition with other empanelled agencies. It could happen only because of our performance, the ability to satisfy client and quality of service we provided. It is simple that we must continue to excel. In this industry, you can't afford to be at leisure even for a day. Once the client entrusts you with their campaign , the agency has to work really very hard and be available to them around the clock and we do exactly the same.
Brands are looking for new agencies for every new campaign. How do you see this affecting this business aspect of the entire OOH business? Is there any way that we can rectify this practice?
This is a common industry phenomenon. There can't be any solution because more and more agencies are coming into the market. So definitely they will not create clients, they will pitch to the same clients which exist in the market. There is no rate card in OOH, so even clients want to have rate evaluation from different sources and try new agencies. The advantage with other medium is that they have an AOR agreement which make the pact for few years but in OOH this trend is missing. The solution is agencies have to be on toes with every campaign. Barring from the telecom industry or a few other clients, agencies have to survive on campaign to campaign basis.
What is your take on the media owners approaching the clients directly?
Media owners have always been there in the industry, even before agencies came in. When agencies came into existence, few media owners over-supported them due to competition amongst media owners only. Seeing this, agencies started advantages of their situation. The agencies started getting into unethical practices like short booking, late PO, no clarification on rates, which created a kind of harassment for the media owners. We have media ownership vertical also therefore I know what happens at most of the agencies and we try to take lessons from those and improve our practices.
How do you provide the efficacy to your clients for their money spent?
There is no common currency in the OOH but most of the agencies have developed their own tools and measurement mechanism. Likewise, we too have a traffic count mechanism and planning tool in place, so whenever we do a campaign and on client's demand, we do planning scientifically which is 70% science and 30% gut-feeling. Sometimes it could be vice-versa also. But there is surely some science required for the planning. The second most important thing is the visibility. The most important feedback clients get is from the market itself. In most of the cases, they don't even bother about the feedback because they get results from their distributors, sales force and various other associates which gives assurance on ROI. For some clients, it speaks on the sales volume also. The clients also try to evaluate or understand the efficacy of the plan which is to be executed. So at that point, we take help from tools which helps us to explain the logic or the planning strategy. At times we provide them survey or feedbacks.
Laqshya Media Solutions has a strong employment. How do you train your employees about this medium? Also how do you retain your employees for longer duration?
The credit has to go to our organisational culture. Laqshya provides complete freedom to work and grow to its employees. Our organisation has minimum interference from the promoters' side. Yes, there is a set pattern of reporting and work but it doesn't mean that employees get pressurized too much. The company gives ample space and support while taking any decision. Also for employees' personal development and growth, the company provides support & training and motivate them to opt for relevant courses available. Depending on the work pressure and time available, we deploy our employees for development sessions and programs. The company has a career growth plan for everyone aimed at the benefit of everyone working in this organisation. We don't over promise and under deliver, we commit on things, which are possible and then fulfil those commitments. In odd Out of 250+ employees, more than 50 have completed 10 years with the organisation which is commendable. There is freedom to work and consistent growth part. Ensuring that growth is there and we maintain decent salary structure as well.
Interview by: Bhawana Anand
Chairman & MD
CEO - India & South Asia
Havas Media Group
CEO - Rural & OOH
CEO-South Asia and Middle East
Kanwal Jeet Jawa
Atin Promotions & Advertising Private Limited