NEW DELHI: Stats don’t lie. Uttar Pradesh is the second largest state economy in the country, after Maharashtra, accounting for nearly 9 percent to the national GDP. In recent years, the state has recorded close to 7 percent state GDP growth, in tandem with the national GDP growth. As the most populous state in the country with nearly 200 million people and a sizeable section living in the urban areas, advertising brands should indeed be queuing up to catch the attention of this growing market. However, the ground realities suggest otherwise, more so in the case of outdoor advertising in the state.
The UP Talks OOH conference, organised by VJ Media Works in Lucknow, was a pioneering effort to highlight the dichotomy and to induce a greater sense of partnership between the civic bodies, media owners and OOH specialist agencies to grow the business and thereby benefit from the win-win initiatives.
While the event served the purpose of bringing the stakeholders in significant numbers on a common platform, which is no mean task, the outstanding issues remained open as ever, with none of the players willing to concede space.
To an extent, the market forces will impel the stakeholders to spring clean their growth strategies, but in today’s business, leadership stems from pro-active measures which were palpably missing in the discussions.
The intent to collaborate and grow was evident but the suggestions were vastly defensive, to the extent that each stakeholder was keen to safeguard their turf, and as a result a common goal to grow the overall business was missing.
So, while the civic authorities urged the industry to curb unauthorised hoardings and share information on errant parties, the industry in turn blamed the authorities for allowing the situation to get to a point where total ban on unauthorised hoardings was seen as the only enforcement tool available.
The discussions pointed to the urgent need for the civic authorities and media owners to switch to a conviction play, instead of a blame game. This would come about through focused discussion, continuous planning and long-term vision, aspects that are seemingly absent now.
The OOH industry in Uttar Pradesh has also had its share of failings, to the point that there is no single voice that articulates the industry’s angst and expectations. Numerous outdoor associations have cropped up to safeguard their turfs against marauding businesses, and are still working with a rent-seeking mentality. Seeking concessions from unrelenting authorities has eclipsed the larger goal of growing the business with the adoption of modern management practices, new technologies and trained manpower. Short-term viability issues tend to overpower the long-term vision to grow and be counted.
Likewise, the specialist agencies have continued to play a safe game by riding a booming sector like telecom, because it pays to do so now. But, there seems to be little traction building for myriad brands in the outdoor in the state although these are large and emerging markets for the products and services.
While the blame for the lukewarm interest might be an outcome of limited interest taken by agencies and brand custodians in taking the outdoor route in UP in a big way, the solution perhaps lies in the media owners in the state coming together to build a higher brand equity for the outdoor market in the state and to play a pro-active role in the affairs of national level outdoor bodies.
External communication would be integral to the outdoor industry’s effort to move up the value chain. At the same time, the industry would need to project its own brand ambassadors who will talk the language of business and promote the cause of the industry as a whole.
The UP Talks OOH conference was a definite beginning in the direction to achieve the above stated goals, but the industry would be better served if the time between now and the next round of discussions is invested in strategising for the future.