The very phrase Out-of-Home challenges the Government advisory that has been urging people to stay home, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused major upheaval, especially for the OOH industry.
Even before the lockdown, which industry experts do consider necessary, the sector has not had the finest year, right from the BMC announcing the ‘no rooftop hoarding’ policy to the unprecedented stay-at-home situation.
Experts are of the view that the industry will see a 6% de-growth, compared to the last financial year, which in itself is a huge blow, considering the already sluggish growth it had been witnessing.
Potential advertisers have begun postponing and cancelling campaigns, with agencies cancelling bookings. At a time like this, OOH companies as well as advertisers lose out. With a view of being empathetic towards the client, Noomi Mehta, Chairman and MD, Selvel One Group says, “We are arranging for an extension of the client’s campaign period free of charge since we need to take extraordinary steps at a time like this, to keep the client’s faith in the medium and in our company.”
In Mumbai, all the company’s sites show relevant messages from the Government regarding the pandemic. For Posterscope, the first quarter of the year typically contributes about 20% of its yearly numbers, which have now been impacted by almost 90%. With every company encouraging employees to work from home, the current situation has prompted the industry to discover opportunities that they never knew existed. Connecting digitally with clients and engaging in new opportunities through the virtual medium is in full force.
“We have taken this time to close some topical interventions around COVID-19, with a few more that are under implementation. I am coming to believe that the home environment is acting as a catalyst for fresh ideas,” says Fabian Trevor Cowan, Director, Posterscope India.
The loss to the industry has been massive, with companies pulling out of businesses worth Rs 20 crore in a fortnight.
With the stoppage of all OOH campaigns, the industry is aware of the loss it is going to incur and is awaiting the financial package promised by the Government in this challenging time.
However, amidst the gloomy situation and numerous challenges, the industry still anticipates a better tomorrow. “We are very hopeful that after April this year, advertisers will bounce back and use our outdoor advertising in large numbers and for this, we are already in touch with many clients,” says Mukesh Gupta, Chairman and MD, Graphisads Private Limited who also affirms that the company is building a rapport with clients not only at a business level but also on a personal level, so as to gain their support once normalcy returns.
The industry is looking at ways to tackle the situation by tightening its belt and being extremely cost-conscious. “We need to do justice to each one of our stakeholders, even while realising that our financial resources will be severely challenged in the immediate future,” says Mehta of Selvel One.
Other companies are using this time to focus on the future and plan ahead of time, by upskilling talent, reinforcing offerings, refining services, strengthening their back-end and reinventing their future approach.
The industry has faced a slowdown in the past due to factors like demonetization and GST, but bounced back soon enough. Industry leaders are confident that the sector will see better days when the crisis is over. “This time around, the outdoor media will bounce back and at a fast pace. In the end, I will say the only way out is to be patient for some time,” Gupta of Graphisads adds.