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Transit Media Special

I would say overall transit media would have outgrown the OOH industry- Arghya Chakravorty

11, January, 2016

Bhawana Anand, allaboutoutdoor.com

"I think we would have outgrown the overall OOH growth by at least by one & half times, if the OOH industry would have grown by 8%-10% then I think OOH segment would have grown by about 16-17%."

As per the reports of 2015, transit media was supposed to be the main driver of the India Out-Of-Home industry, which definitely seemed to be happening with elevating advertisers trust on this format and increasing advertising opportunities at transit medium. However to know the outcome in terms of figures and data, allaboutoutdoor engaged with Arghya Chakravorty, CEO of Times OOH. Below are his edited excerpts.

OOH advertising in 2015 was predicted to be driven by transit category. Did you see that happening in 2015? Can you share the progress happened in transit section in terms of figures?

We measured our financial year from April-March and as per the transit segment in which we deal, 2015 was a fantastic year. I would be happy and honest to say that indeed transit section has done well. As per my knowledge, not only ours but other major airports and organised players have also done quite decent. In fact I would say that overall transit media would have outgrown the entire OOH industry. We have seen some good success, driven by not just this segment but also because of innovative stuff that happened in this segment. Moreover in the overall OOH space, transit segment is the one which is more amenable towards creating innovations because of its contained environment, hence that has helped us. I think we would have outgrown the overall OOH growth by at least by one & half times, if the OOH industry would have grown by 8%-10% then I think OOH segment would have grown by about 16-17%. Primarily not so much with the transit media but with the availability of media becomes larger in Mumbai airport so that is how it is.

How has 2015 as a financial year been for Times OOH? What was the occupancy rate at airports and metro stations?

We have seen good healthy double digital growth in 2015. The 1st half of the year was even better because we were lapping up with a year (2014) before where the 1st half was not so great. And the base numbers were relatively softer but as we are passing the year, the growth amount is coming down but we should end the year with healthy numbers. We have done exceedingly well at the Delhi Airport from an occupancy rate. In fact, we are happy and have some concerns as well because you can't stretch occupancies beyond a point. Even the Mumbai airport has done well even when lot of transition was happening and a lot of media is coming up there. It is good that we are heading a good growth and occupancy is moving upwards. Even as per the global benchmark, the occupancy has been reasonably high. When it comes to Metro media, Mumbai metro is just 1.5 years old; we are seeing great occupancy at digital media but static needs to be improved further. We have train wraps which has seen somewhat fluctuating occupancy but I think we got it right in last 3 months and we are seeing quite good occupancy there as well.

As compared to 2014 or prior, 2015 saw less number of innovations especially at airports.  Do you agree on this? If yes then why?

There are two ways of looking at innovations, one is format innovation and another is inventory innovation. In terms of format innovations + new things done at airports, we have done quite many things for different brands. One example of such would be 'Renault Kwid' for which a life-size car was being hung at the departure area for the first time in any airport history. We got great reviews on that and in fact the brand was quite content. Another example of such kind would be an Amazon flash mob executed at Mumbai Airport. And we keep on doing such experiments. Another kind of innovations is looking at the inventory innovatively. Understanding the fact that airport is a place where you have a certain type of TG, congregating and coming day in & day out, thus we try to engage them apart from just showing them the sites. 

Times OOH has digital media at Mumbai Metro. How has the response been towards this format? What sort of challenges did you face while managing the digital media?  Are you planning to bring digital media to Delhi metro as well?

Not really. Considering the digital screens locations, they all are inside the metro stations. So hence it is an advantage that they are not left out in open where they can get abused like a billboard. They are in much more controlled environment but still, yes technical challenges will always be there but it has nothing to do with external conditions. Even the audience travelling through metro and airports aren't kind of prone to creating problematic things for the formats. We have really not faced any issue of this sort; otherwise we wouldn't have seen such kind of success. I think more and more advertisers, clients and agencies are looking forward to the moving imagery and engaging formats. Ideally, I would like to step up as much more for digital inventories and you may see more and more static sites converting into digital, even in Delhi. As we understand the business is relatively better and as capabilities and technology improves, will see lot more action in digital space.

What is your take on renaming the metro stations as this trend picked up in DMRC lately?  How profitable is this form of advertising from a media owner perspective and advertisers' perspective?

From an advertiser's point, metro stations naming adds a lot of brand value and imagery to a client's name over a period of time. One shouldn't look at it just as an OOH space but consider it more from creating an imagery and brand recall as lot of name display and station name announcement happens continuously. From advertiser's point of view, it's a long term thing and we are seeing great things happening at other metro stations. Clients are still getting a hang of it and as we move forward, we will see lot of such things happening. From a media owner's viewpoint, it is an add-on inventory. Moreover being associated with a big brand which is actually taking a big entity like metro station naming, also adds sheen and value to the media owner. In addition it is an inventory which gets locked-in for a longer duration so it is a mutually beneficial opportunity.  In my opinion not only in Delhi, but metros coming in different cities will also have a lot of station renaming opportunity.

Do you see this trend following to Airports as well? If not at metro city airports then, do you see this happening at Tier II cities airports?

Well airports will have its own challenges but it depends on the imagination that one has. For example there was a mobile launch, happened in London where the terminal name was renamed with the product.  Airport naming or terminal renaming is a large ticket item and things have been done in the past but of course airports have their own sensitivities and government involvement etc., which raises some challenges but nothing is impossible.

Times OOH has been successful operating digital media at airports. But internationally digital media is much more than just display and signage. Are you planning to add other features to your digital formats such as live communication, mobile connectivity and sensors?

We have already done certain innovations at Delhi airport inmotion sensing technology.  But we are working to develop it further, tomorrow we may think of doing something with mobile technology. The next big step in the advertising world itself is happening in digital - such as mobiles, and digital technology so we are looking that how can we also partner it with OOH. There are several technologies available but it is an iterative process and we are trying to utilise it for our digital inventories. 

In the past you have tied up with companies to outsource the content for digital format. What other efforts are you investing to strengthen the content in order to engage the audience?

We are trying to build an in-house capability for content generation. There will be a team which will work for the clients who wish to do something around content on digital space but don't have time or bandwidth to create something on their own. So we are trying to develop our capabilities where we offer them solutions to create a digital content and it will be a value added service. This is going to be the key feature while going forward where we will be able to create content and deliver a holistic solution to clients.

How do you see 2016 year for OOH medium and Times OOH?

I don't see any reason to taper down the 2016 year. We should see good growth but I am not sure whether the numbers will be very high. It should still grow about 9%-10% overall. There are elections in some states which will benefit the medium; unfortunately we don't get the pie from this category. There will be action in smaller markets in billboard segment. I think a lot of growth in OOH space is going to come as per the industry actions that what does industry do.  So while the overall market is growing at a certain pace, we are still a very small fraction of the overall advertising spends that happen. Therefore the room is always there, not in terms of overall pie increasing but what we can do to increase a share from the advertising segments.

Can we get to hear about new installations and acquisitions in 2016 from Times OOH?

You will get to hear for sure. But they won't be the large ones because I don't see it happening very soon. However we will be keep acquiring small bids. We are quite aggressive in terms of acquiring media which falls in our strategic fit so there will be more action around it.  As we see newer inventories coming up in few months but in addition we will alsolook at various opportunities in terms of partnering up with small players. We are looking at innovative ways where we can collaborate with other players where we think it adds value in terms of lending out branding, bringing our client based and using the strength of a local partner with ability to manage local business.    

Would you like to give any message for the industry?

I think OOH industry is getting its fact right and for that I would like to give a lot of credit to our association IOAA and its members. Through your medium, I would like appeal to more & more OOH players to come and join the association. We are trying to make practices better, more streamlined, and work with agencies and govt bodies. So the more the people join IOAA, the better it is for the industry.