We are all aware about the impact of Covid-19 on the M&E industry, but now is the time to see what’s coming next. The OOH space is one of the worst-hit forms of media and brands are now saving their marketing costs.
Medianews4u spoke to Haresh Nayak, MD, Posterscope India and President Posterscope APAC and COO, DAN Media Brands for a brief conversation around the way forward for the OOH space and what was the agency upto during the lockdown phase. Nayak in this conversation also spoke about Postercrope’s recent OOH campaign, Billboard Speaks which has been doing rounds across social media.
OOH and its promising comeback!
We are very positive about the comeback for OOH because if you look at a couple of factors based on social listening on social media, people are saying that ‘I miss shopping’ and ‘I miss the restaurants’ and ‘I am miss long drives’ among other things. People are feeling ready to go out of home because they are so used to being in that space.
Earlier brands needed to communicate with their consumers regularly. Now, there has been a gap and in the last 60 – 70 days, if you see,even the brands’ communication has gone down. From a brand point of view, the top of mind recall has gone down. There is a great need for brands to be on the top of the mind of the consumer in terms of their product or services.
Going forward OOH will be in a very positive space because people want to come out of their television sets and mobile phone and just want to feel how OOH is going to be in a very positive frame of mind. A brand will advertise in the OOH space because the consumers are going to be far more receptive in that space. Post-lockdown is going to be a great phase for OOH in which brands should definitely advertise. I think this is going to be the best place to be for the next 30 to 60 days.
Learnings from foreign counter-parts
When the lockdown started, we spoke to our counterparts in China because they had gone through SARS and COVID-19 and multiple such epidemics. Every time if something big happens they get into a complete lockdown situation and after that lockdown, they come out much stronger. So for us being a global agency, there was some amount of learning and it was up to us to reach out to them.
First, 30 days of Lockdown was just about training – making teams ready for a post-covid world
We did an internal study with all the brands and media partners. We knew that the lockdown would go on for a minimum of 60 days, so with the help of the HR department, for the first 30 days of the lockdown, we gave enough training to all our people who are working across the front end to the back end. Front end people were trained on their presentation skills via video conferencing.
So the first 30-40 days were dedicated towards trainings and we did not look at the business. Our focus was to make teams ready for the post -covid19 world.
When we started our business post 30 days, our shopper marketing arm, Hyperspace developed user manuals for offices, this was to help them function smoothly in the post lockdown period. These are steps that one should follow such as navigational timings and safety norms. We created an entire brand manual in and around that helped us pick up a lot of business. We are now working together with a lot of clients to create post-covid signage solutions for offices and have guidelines as to how to operate a canteen area, how do we open the toilet area, and all the guidelines that are required in an office.
Clients demand more ROI
The biggest challenge which we have seen is that the client budgets have also gone down drastically. The demand for consumer analytics and location analytics will go very high, and so clients are demanding on getting the maximum ROI from what they were doing last year. Our investment in terms of bringing more intelligence and more data into planning has worked well for us here. Clients are looking at optimal ways of doing their OOH campaigns and we are doing a few campaigns right now.
I think clients are going to become far smarter as there will be more accountability And I will agree to your point on the reboot, because this is going to be a reboot to the industry because the industry will have to look at newer ways. One of the things that I mentioned earlier was that now one can’t go directly and meet the client but one will have to be prepared with a virtual presentation followed by a strategic plan that’s backed with data. So in that way, the reboot will be really good for the industry and I think I would agree to this from a positive point of view.
You have been recently promoted and given charge of the complete range of Media Brands at DAN… how difficult have the first couple of months into the new role been? Have we seen the worst or is it yet to come?
I got two promotions. I became the President – APAC at Posterscope and India COO for all Media Brands at Denstu Aegis Network, both the announcements happened during the lockdown period, but yet not a lot of work has happened. I have got a lot of time to think which is a positive for me. If I would have got into this role while the world would have been in a normal situation then I would be simply running behind 10 different things and maybe doing five things wrong. I think with the amount of time in our hands now, we have done five things out of which all of them have been right.
One of the things which we wanted to focus on was the operational excellence across all DAN media brands and so we started the exercise in the 3rd week of March. In a span of 40 to 45 days, we have looked at the key areas of improvement in our business.
Not only have we identified those areas but also looked at new ways of learning, we have invested in developing innovative tools and softwares trying to streamline our finances and operations along with bringing them together so that our clients are able to get the best.
We have a lot of agencies operating in different genres, and we have created our own gold standard internally that reflects what competition is doing and what we are doing. We look at the best practices globally and plan to imbibe those practices. Basically when you try to get your house in order before you start, usually you don’t get that window, but lucky for me, I think I got the window to get the house in place.
Is Digital the way forward? What sentiments do you gather from the numerous conversations you are having with your clients and brand custodians?
Ultimately, I always believe in re-invention and things will always keep on changing and also evolving.I have been in this industry for the last 20 years; and the journey is always accompanied with new inventions and newer ways of doing business. I don’t think entirely clients will go to digital totally because ultimately brands will need a holistic communication. One cannot find a consumer, only on the laptop or a mobile. A consumer will travel somewhere, to a restaurant maybe to an office. Consumers are not going to get themselves glued into a television set or into a digital mobile phone or a laptop or desktop or whatever it is. I think it’s a wrong way of looking at it; the consumer journey keeps on evolving and with this new normal there are going to be new ways of living our lifestyle.
Changes in lifestyle will include the fact that people will reduce their dependence on public transport and so one will see an increase in private vehicles, people will come out of their homes and hence the medium is definitely here to stay. Initially one would note that people traveling by trains would be simply glued onto their mobile phones, while now that won’t be the case and we would get a 100% attention from consumers.
I believe there will be positives and negatives, but I think there won’t be any drastic changes. There will be media consumption which is going to happen time and time again depending on the situation. I think it is a part and parcel of life and that is why, we as an agency and as a consultant to the brand, it is our role to ensure that we help our clients take the right journey to connect both brands and consumers together in the right manner. I think we will also get our data points right and analytics right to tell our clients what is the best way of doing it, but yes 100% shift to digital is not possible.
Your new campaign, Billboard Speaks has done supremely well across social media platforms… your thoughts on this comeback campaign…
The clients will now look at to reduce costs because anyways these two to three months of lockdown and two/three months of recovery is going to take away a big expenditure out of us, so let us spend optimally. Innovation will happen in terms of optimal planning, looking at the amount of innovation.
One of the ideas behind the Billboard Speaks is to tell the client that if you use your creatives well you can get a good response. I have got great responses from UK, Australia and many other countries and social media accounts have also got a lot of traction. The campaign idea is to showcase how consumers miss being in the ooh space and we miss them too. We believe that innovation and optimization of planning the other two innovations that will definitely happen.
What kept you optimistic during your face in the lockdown at home and what was that one mantra that you shared internally with your employees with the team with all the co-workers and your brands?
When the lockdown was announced, it was imperative for us to understand the sentiments of our people as there was anxiety and fear about our jobs, salaries and the business. At the top we faced a lot of pressure because we can’t go down on your numbers. Your numbers have to be there your OP margins have to be improved to reduce the need to cut costs, because we cannot afford… luckily for us, our businesses are so widely divided between marketing income and non-marketing income. Under the pure-marketing incomes, we operate in pure media line of the businesses such as outdoor, television, radio, print. We also have the non-marketing side of the business, such as our agency called Indeed which is a CSR agency. A lot of work has happened there and I feel very honoured that we were able to support our clients and the community. We distributed 6 lakh masks, 3 lakh PPE kits, 300 plus ventilators, working across unified governments and 21 brands. Impactful work has happened in a situation where there was so much of scarcity of medical equipment. So our business mix was such that we were able to balance and handle the pressures of the pandemic.
We organized a town hall and spoke to all the employees and I assured them that all of us will get through this together. Among the senior leadership, we went through salary cuts and let go of our bonuses.
There were people who had performed excellently well, and we thought we cannot distribute the bonus across everyone so we decided to acknowledge the hard work of all super performers and gave them the bonuses.
We decided to remain positive and with our HR we decided that let us keep people busy with work and let’s not give them free space of mind so that they don’t feel the pressure. Constant engagement by the brand heads ensured smooth functioning.