OOH advertising has been accused of being many things: distasteful, an eyesore, and even a safety hazard for drivers. On the grounds of visual clutter, Sao Paulo banned all forms of OOH advertising in 2006 and many followed suit: Chennai, Grenoble, Tehran, Paris, New York and now Philadelphia. In other cities, city corporations are formulating policies to regulate the number and location of outdoor advertising. After kicking into effect the Delhi policy for outdoor advertising which discourages visual clutter, a similar policy is being formulated for the city of Thiruvananthapuram this year which will include categorization of hoardings and taking into factors regarding color, shape, light source and luminance.
IS A CLEAN SWEEP OF OOH WISE?
With many a blanket bans around the world, one would conclude that outdoor advertising negatively impacts cities. But like everything else, there are many cons to outdoor advertising too. While cities that have banned outdoor advertising are celebrating the refocus on city architecture, the importance and role of OOH advertising in contributing towards public life cannot be ignored.
According to Olivier Heroguelle, Managing Director, JCDecaux India, “OOH now makes a pivotal contribution by combining public services with advertising. This gives the benefit of free public services and utilities to the citizens through assets like bus shelters, toilets, information panels, dustbins, benches etc. which is funded by revenues from OOH advertising.”
Echoing the same thoughts, Soumitra Bhattacharyya, Chief Executive Officer, Madison OOH Media Group comments, “An entire city development in terms of its street furniture and facilities for the inhabitants can be funded by OOH advertising if it is managed well. Many a cities already do this where, without spending a penny of the exchequer, the bus service, bus shelters, foot over bridges/parks/sanitation/pure drinking water etc. are made available through the PPP model. Of course for this the authorities need to be progressive and projects need to be of a longer duration so that scope is there to get a returns on investments made.”
A partial/complete ban would also mean an increase in unemployment; a fact that’s been acknowledged by the city of Chennai which banned illegal hoardings in 2008.
Outdoor advertising, and more specifically billboard advertising is vital in supporting the print advertising part of the industry as it is an integral part of many advertisers media solutions.
Outdoor is the oldest form of advertising in the world. It has long formed part of the fabric of urban environments such as Times Square and Piccadilly Circus. Many similar places have assumed their individual characteristics due to the presence of OOH media which inform, excite and entertain the public and attract tourists.
TRANSFORMING CITIES FOR THE BETTER
Out of Home advertising can help make cities a better place to live, work and visit. From digital inventory that utilizes interactive technology, to street furniture which creates social urban spaces for the community, bike schemes which improve public mobility and reduce congestion, to in-built interactive mobile technology that enables people to navigate, discover and exist more easily in the urban environment, out of home advertising provides a tool that can help improve city life.
Part of the Smart Cities Movement
The basic principle of Smart Cities is that in the future, powered by connected devices and data, we can create more responsive places to live. The Internet of Things will change the way we live our lives for the better but would it be believable for OOH advertising to do the same thing? Definitely yes! Other than generating revenue for cities, Municipalities are beginning to see more dimensions to the traditionally linear role of the medium, that of helping connect devices and provide entertainment, way-finding, information and other elements of genuine utility.
The urban environment is increasingly becoming an important part of the DOOH advertising mix and brands are continuously exploring its potential for engagement with interactive and informative campaigns. Google took over 175 DOOH displays to offer mini-guides to different cities, showcasing its Search app and voice control. Porsche used cameras to detect approaching Porsche drivers, before beaming tailored messages to them on digital billboards.
JCDecaux’s urge for innovation has led to several sustainable applications in numerous smart cities across the globe with the installation of Wi-Fi small cells, digital transit shelters, bike schemes, infobus, automatic public toilet etc. It even signed a global contract with Vodafone to deploy small cells on its street furniture assets to enhance network performance across the city of Amsterdam and similarly partnered with Huawei to drive global deployment of small cell base stations.
OOH companies are also partnering with a number of organizations to ensure cities are livable and sustainable like Clear Channel Outdoor which works very closely with a number of organizations, including climate leadership group, C40, the Global Cities Business Alliance launched recently by London First, the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities Program and Eurocities, as well as a number of municipal authorities to help improve cities and urban space.
IBM’s outdoor advertising campaign in 2013 added improvements to the landscape with a triad of ads from Ogilvy France which functioned as a bench, a shelter and a ramp over stairs. It also urged passersby and the online audience to visit people4smartercities.com and submit their own, presumably larger ideas for civic upgrades.
GLOBAL NOD IN FAVOR OF OOH
A new report commissioned by Clear Channel Outdoor which sheds light on the real and perceived impact that Out-of-Home advertising is having on cities shows high acceptance towards the medium with 78% of Londoners expressing a preference for seeing outdoor advertising in their capital while 82% respondents agreeing that public OOH revives a city. The study which was conducted in seven European cities: London, Paris, Dublin, Barcelona, Stockholm, Naples, and Brussels also revealed citizens’ support for the medium if it showcased useful local services such as maps and clocks and on public transport if it improved the quality of service.
Commenting on how Indians perceive OOH advertising, Soumitra Bhattacharyya says, “OOH as a medium exists seamlessly beside us in our daily life and thus it is not intrusive; so the Indian audience is definitely okay with it. However if we’re talking about marketers willing to bet on OOH then my answer would be that they are more positive towards it than say 10 years ago but there is a lot of scope for increasing their degree of interest. All the stake holders in OOH- the media owners, the agencies like us etc. realize this and are working towards structuring this swashbuckling industry of ours.”