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Video streaming services have returned to spending big bucks on billboards to grab eyeballs for their shows. In June, Mint reported that the category, with its miscellaneous foreign and homegrown brands such as Netflix, Disney+Hotstar and Hoichoi, among others, is estimated to spend 400 crore on outdoor advertising in a year.

In a couple of recent interviews, senior executives of Page Industries that sells innerwear brand Jockey, and footwear retailer Metro Brands Ltd also spoke of the value of out-of-home (OOH) advertising in their media mix. Karthik Yathindra, chief marketing officer, Jockey India said although the brand’s investment in social digital marketing has increased, outdoor is a big stay as it gives the opportunity to showcase products in a larger-than-life manner.

Alisha Malik, president, e-commerce and marketing at Metro Brands, too, said hoardings can’t be ignored. “It really does tell the customer that, hey, I’m in your city, especially if it’s a new city," she said, adding that the company has started using digital screens in malls.

A new report by GroupM’s outdoor agency Kinetic recognizes that covid-19 pandemic has been “pivotal" in the transformation of the OOH sector. It said outdoor has become one of the fastest growing mediums today and an integral part of campaigns as consumers spend a disproportionate time out of home with covid restrictions easing. Also, reverse migration during the pandemic from urban, especially large metros, to rural and smaller towns, led brands to deploy campaigns across a larger number of cities, giving a fillip to outdoor advertising.

Ajay Mehta, managing director, Kinetic India, said spends on outdoor ads started seeing an uptick in October 2021. “So far, August 2022 has been our biggest month. From a spending perspective, the way the last quarter has panned out, this festival season is probably going to be the best festive ever," Mehta said.

The growth is being fuelled by a lot of the new-age companies such as edtech startups, online groceries and fintech firms. “The old and the big boys are coming back, too," Mehta said, referring to advertisers like real estate and builders, banking and financial services, retail and media making a beeline for billboards. “Out-of-home is back," he said.

The medium matured in the last couple of years in terms of measurement. Earlier, the industry depended more on “guesstimates" or old-fashioned tickers and physical counting of passersby and vehicles to study traffic. Technology has not only introduced digital screens but also given rise to several mobile apps to measure such data in real time. “This, layered with extensive Google mobility reports, and our own predictive analysis, has changed the way outdoor is measured," said Mehta.

Revival in traffic at airports, cinemas and malls is driving ad spends on outdoor media. New touch points have also emerged. Data indicates that a lot of mobility is still within our own catchment areas leading to advertising being targeted around residences. “So, digital out-of -home is coming into elevators, lobbies of high-rise buildings and of gated communities," Mehta said.

But the bigger revolution in outdoor medium has been brought about by digital screens. Kinetic recently created a 3D anamorphic illusion for Thums Up in Bengaluru for Independence Day.

As the population of digital screens increases, it will facilitate programmatic buys, Mehta said, aiding outdoor to grab a share of digital media spends too.

But digital screens will make better sense if they are internet-enabled and smart and able to trigger contextual advertising. For example, if the Air Quality Index in Delhi winters increases, the screen should be able to trigger an ad for an air purifier. Or, may be a tea or coffee brand when it rains, Mehta said, explaining smart digital screens.

In some Southeast Asian markets, especially, Thailand, the share of out-of-home in total ad spends is 7-8%. The country is home to massive, impactful digital screens. There’s headroom for growth in India where the share of outdoor is around 3%. “Globally, we are under-indexed as compared to some of our peers. That’s because there’s not enough quality supply," Mehta said.

Also, the out-of-home industry in India is highly fragmented and could benefit from consolidation. Lastly, uniform, nationwide laws to regulate the sector could drive growth. Currently, the rules are framed by different municipalities within cities.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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