The coronavirus pandemic

The Covid pandemic has opened up new challenges for all of us, which we usually prefer to call the “New Normal”. The OOH industry is also not an exception to this challenge, especially in India. Even before the pandemic, this medium of advertising have a history of negligible audience research data in India. The basic tenet which is expected from any form of advertising – “The Audience/ Target Group”, having the OTS, was questionable and disorganised, just like the OOH industry itself.

Now the industry has come to face the harsh reality of answering these difficult questions : Lockdown, Work From Home, Partial Unlock – So who exactly is the Target Audience who has got the Opportunity to See?

In this worst Economic Downturn following the Great Lockdown, there is only one question in every investor’s mind: “ What is the ROI? How to measure the increment in sales revenue if I am spending a huge chunk of my advertising budget in OOH medium? “

But, if we look at this as an opportunity, then “New Normal” can be acting as a catalyst that the OOH industry has been awaiting for since a long time.

The OOH industry is in cusp of undergoing multiple shifts - Eco friendly material specifications, standardisation of OOH : from billboards to Smart city projects / Cityscapes / Street furniture / Utility driven media at destinations etc.

The industry has got a unique opportunity to upgrade, standardise and innovate, upgrade to assets which are both utilities based and technologically advanced. It needs continuous innovation to make the content and the media relevant to the audience rather than just a static form of advertising which showcases a product/service.

Our solution to all the unanswered questions lies in the Smart City. We are living in an era of “everything Smart”.  In cities with old structures, lot of time is usually wasted by the people in doing repetitive activities like waiting in the queues, travelling large distances to buy goods, getting stuck in traffic jams etc. Not to forget the other problems like pollution, nonstandard urban infrastructures, telecommunication infrastructures and many more. To rise to all these challenges, countries across the globe are investing heavily in providing smart solutions and easy lifestyle to their cities and citizens. One such endeavour by Government of India is the Smart City Mission launched in 2015, which aims to develop 100 cities across the country which can provide the citizens utmost comfort with smart economy, smart transportation, smart environment, smart lifestyle and smart administration.

Smart city landscapes provide ample opportunities for Digital OOH Media which can display Virtual Reality/ Augmented Reality content based on analytics using Artificial Intelligence.

The role of DOOH in these smart city projects are very far reaching. The OOH industry must be prepared to gain insights from the vast amount of data that is being available to them, mainly to predict new consumer behaviour and avoid potential negative outcomes.

These smart city DOOH is ready to offer multiple smart concepts to the public. Let us take a look at some  of the basic and immediate deliverables in the New Normal :

  1. Live updates zone / ward wise , instant dissemination to the public.
  2. Smart & Safe Environment: Continuous update to the public on the D0’s & Don’ts at various touch points, as each unlock phase is announced
  3. Continuous updates on essential service openings : Train / Bus services etc to the public
  4. Smart Mobility: Live updates on traffic, congestion etc to ease traffic movement and recommend alternate routes
  5. Smart bus stops: To ease the crowd at these locations, with time integrated service network, displaying the detailed bus schedule.
  6. Smart people: Interactive kiosks to Provide directory information at malls and amusement parks, updated with latest news
  7. Digital Signage way finding solutions to be deployed in hospitals and shopping malls to ease navigation

And the list continues to ease the various chores in the life of the general public.

But more importantly Smart city projects bring in wealth of data, real time data. The industry currently has wealth of information from multiple touch points, starting from the time a person steps out of home to the time he steps back in and beyond.

Various private companies have successfully analysed, mined and within the gambit of the law utilising the same for profits.

Therefore, why can’t the Government authorities utilise the same to generate revenue for public welfare.

If and only if the OOH industry works towards identifying this opportunity immediately and comes together to standardise and structure this growth in a systematic manner along with the government, local bodies and the advertisers, we have a wonderful MAKE IN INDIA opportunity in hand.

And this is just the beginning. The future of DOOH is more than just connectivity. The world around them will be sensed by the DOOH screens, thereby becoming more aware about their audience and context. They can be managed remotely, and will require multiple technologies to analyse the data gathered, like artificial intelligence, data mining technologies, data analytics, deep learning etc.  With the help of this, OOH industry will be able to reach out to the target audience like no other medium.

We would have transgressed to “The New Normal”

Lokesh Kumar

Business Head

Skyrams advertising pvt ltd

OOH professional with over 25 year experience in Indian ooh landscape across media asset management ventures to multinational & National OOH agencies like JWT , Madison.