Sunday, December 7, 2008

Outdoor media, hoardings going vacant on poor market sentiment

Varada Bhat

Mumbai, Dec. 5 A few weeks ago, when your car zoomed across the neon-lit streets in Mumbai, there was a glitzy illuminated sign that promised you the comfort of a luxury apartment at an affordable price or a telecom company that kept buzzing with unlimited free calls.

But now due to slowdown in businesses coupled with downturn in the economy, outdoor media companies can’t find more innovations to illuminate their blank sites.

Big ad spenders such as HDFC, Reliance and ICICI are shying away from fat-budget campaigns outdoors, said Mr Sudhesh Paul, Business Development Manager with Bright Outdoor Media (Pvt) Ltd, which has a 50 per cent market share in the ‘Out of Home’ business in Mumbai.

Mr Paul says last week, one of the top private sector conglomerates terminated a six-year contract with Bright outdoor on several locations in the country by giving one month’s notice.

“Sixty per cent of our sites are vacant now,” Mr Alt aaf Shaikh Director of Mumbai-based Roshan Publicity told Business Line. The company once boasted of a clientele of Airtel, Bajaj, ICICI Prudential and HSBC.

Slashing bookings

According to Mr Shaikh, new campaigns are becoming shorter and softer in length as advertising budget is pruned.

“One of the telecom companies, which launched its operations in Mumbai in August, had an initial booking worth Rs 2 crore, which got slashed to Rs 75 lakh,” Mr Paul added.

Traditionally, during the festive season from October to December, the outdoor companies used to hold bid for prime locations, but now due to the financial turmoil, the billboards are falling vacant.

According to Mr Anant Raj, Account Manager with Primesite (the outdoor arm of Mudra Communications), says that his financial clients have stripped the launches of their new products and schemes due to dampened consumer sentiment in the markets.

According to a media guide of a leading outdoor agency, on an average, hoardings cost Rs 18-20 lakh a month, kiosks cost Rs 3500-15,000 a month and gantries cost Rs 3-6.5 lakh a month.

Media efficiency

Although Mumbai and Delhi comprise 50 per cent of the outdoor market in numbers, 70 per cent of values in terms of money are coming from tier II and tier III cities that have also been affected drastically.

Mr Amish Tripathi, IDBI Fortis Life Insurance National Head (Marketing and Product Management), said, “We have started focusing on the efficiency of each media. We are selectively choosing media, through which we are getting lot of yields.”

Mr Sanjay Pareek, President of Percept Out-of-Home, a division of Percept Holdings, feels corporates have also realised that the television is a cost-effective medium, considering the increasing penetration.

“The sheer boost in airtime inventory due to recent launches of new channels has resulted in dropping down of rates. Even we are advising our clients to shift from outdoor to television,” he said.