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Monday, 16 May 2011 09:00 (IST)
Shashank Srivastava, chief general manager, Maruti Suzuki India'OOH has four key attributes of Innovativeness, flexibility, coverage and impact'

Shashank Srivastava, chief general manager, Maruti Suzuki India is a marketing veteran, He has been there in MSIL since last 23 Years. He Started his career with Maruti Suzuki and has been heading key portfolios across MSIL divisions. Currently, he is heading the entire Maruti Suzuki marketing division comprising of fourteen brands and a research department. In an extensive interview with network2media, Srivastava shares his thoughts on the role of OOH advertising in the context of the brands under his portfolio of the fast changing consumer behavioural patterns. Edited excerpts:

Being the leading passenger car manufacture in the country, how important is the role of OOH media in your media mix?

We have seen a growth in our advertising spends in OOH domain because of the evolution of newer formats and availability of multiple platforms. OOH today is an important and strategic element of our media mix primarily because of four key attributes of Innovativeness, flexibility, coverage and impact. It is increasingly proving out to be a platform which acts as a good reminder medium for reinforcing our creative communication and thus it is garnering a higher share of our advertising kitty. I would therefore like to say the OOH plays a very vital role in our media mix

Being an automobile brand, is there a greater synergy between Maruti and OOH advertising as compared to any other consumer durable product category?

There is definitely a great synergy between Maruti Suzuki and OOH, because it serves as a reminder medium which reinforces our mainline communication. It helps in building up a positive imagery and recall for the brand. It delivers a positive brand impact and helps in building up consumer involvement with the brand.

Do you use OOH advertising for tactical purposes, or do you use it for brand building and theme based advertising as well?

We utilise OOH advertising for both tactical as well as brand building and theme based advertising, the potential of OOH has been utilised in our recent Kizashi Launch campaign, in which we have utilised it for pure brand building purpose and it has been received well by the audiences. It has created a positive imagery in the consumers mind about our newly launched marquee brand. In few locations, we utilise it for tactical purposes as well, keeping in mind the market dynamics and business requirements.

Do you believe that innovations are the best way to break through clutter in the OOH advertising domain?

I do believe that innovations are the best way to break through clutter in the OOH domain, however given the limited advertising budgets, a judicious mix of maximising reach through plain vanilla sites at strategic locations and few good innovations at prominent places would deliver the best brand impact. I would specifically like to mention the recent Nokia campaign at the Delhi airport, in which a large replica of a Nokia phone was created in front of the arrival zone and it comprised of a large LED screen as its display, which demonstrated its features, this was very innovative and I am sure must have been very effective to communicate the message as well.

Are you satisfied with the way OOH specialist agencies have responded to your brand communication needs?

We are satisfied with the way OOH specialist agencies have responded to our brand communication needs, they have been pro-active in coming up with tailor made solutions to address our communication needs, they have partnered with us in delivering many key and effective communications for our different brands with impact. I would however like them to bring more accountability, measurability, better monitoring formats and scientific planning tools to the table in order to take our relationships even further.

Do you believe that activation initiatives (In conjunction with direct advertising) play a key role in building interactivity and engagement with the target groups?

Activation Initiatives have worked well for FMCG category as they need to get their TOM recall high at the point of purchase, as well as deliver an experience and engagement with the brand, in our case, the second part i.e. delivering an experience and engagement with the brand has been the driving force in utilising activation initiatives for a number of our brands. It has worked well with our theme based campaigns in increasing the consumer involvement with our brands.

Couple of years back, Maruti was very bullish on digital OOH. How has this played out over the last couple of years?

MSIL has always been a first mover and early adapter in new advertising formats, when Digital OOH arrived, MSIL was one of the first advertisers in the automobile category to lap it up and it has definitely paid good dividends over the years. MSIL has even got its creatives specifically developed only for this medium thus exploiting and harnessing the complete advantages of digital OOH. We have been actively utilising it and in future we would continue to do the same with further evolution.

Do you believe that the future of OOH advertising lies in the digital arena?

With media explosion reverberating all around and increasing competition amongst brand marketers to be eye catching, OOH medium has evolved into a rejuvenated media force to be reckoned with for delivering high impact. The evolution of Digital OOH has certainly changed the outlook towards OOH advertising, it has the potential to catapault to the next level, as it provides the best of both worlds i.e. the impact of traditional OOH platform and the interactivity and flexibility of other mediums. We look forward to have Digital OOH as a vital part of our media mix for most of our campaigns.

What are your thoughts on efficacy of airport advertising?

I am sure you would have seen the evolution of Indian Aviation Industry yourself, The domestic air passenger traffic grew by 19 percent in 2010, registering 51.53 million passengers as compared to 43.3 million in 2009, India is expected to be the fastest growing civil aviation market in the world by 2020 with about 420 million passengers being handled by the Indian airport system, according to the Economic Survey 2010-11. All these means, that there is a consistent YOY growth in the captive audience attracted by these transportation hubs, an audience which has a high propensity to buy cars, an audience which we want to reach! Thus, airport advertising is an very important peg to touch the consumer chord, however, with increasing clutter, getting audience attention is increasingly becoming difficult, I feel that plain vanilla advertising at airports might not be very effective, it has to be different, revolutionary and eye catching.

What about mall advertising and creation of 'experiential zones'?

Malls are good congregation points of potential consumers, hence, mall advertising is definitely effective. However, unlike FMCG, which believe in creating 'Top of Mind Recall' at the point of purchase, we have a different requirement of creating an impact. Hence, mall facades are a better option for us. We do not believe in creating experiential zones in malls. Our widespread network of more than 933 dealerships (Including E-Outlets) are full fledged experience zones, where consumers can get best insights on the cars and taking the experience level further, they can get an actual test drive and experience the product completely. Our customers are welcome to experience our cars at their convenience at any of these MSIL dealership experience zones!

Do you believe that outdoor advertising delivers better value and higher impact in Tier 2 and 3 cities? Going forward, will Maruti increasingly invest in this medium to reach out to the target audience in smaller cities and towns?

It is difficult to say that outdoor advertising delivers better value and higher impact in Tier 2 and 3 cities, definitely, with increasing communication clutter in metros and mini metros, the outdoor options in Tier 2 and 3 cities provide better visibility, but to say that it delivers better value would be difficult. Maruti Suzuki's major source of growth is coming from small towns as they are the centres of a huge untapped pool of potential consumers, we would definitely be looking at possibilities to increase investments in this medium to reach out to our target audience in small towns.

How do you rate the growth of 'Mobile' OOH like Bus/Vehicle/Train wraps as a viable advertising option? Can these ever be used as a replacement to smaller format static outdoor media as frequency and reach builders?

Every evolving media option leads to reaching more consumers at newer touchpoints, the growth of 'Mobile' OOH like Bus/Vehicle/Train wraps etc. has provided a new touchpoint which if utilised strategically on key routes and locations can deliver effective communication. Branding of Delhi Metro/Rajdhani trains etc. can even deliver huge impact, they however need to be more justified in investment requirements, as currently, the impact model in these mediums does not justifies a proper ROI. They can be utilised in conjunction with other static outdoor media to deliver both frequency as well as small amount of incremental targeted reach, however, they can not be utilised in isolation completely, as they would not be able to deliver the level of reach and positive brand imagery/impact as provided by other static outdoor media options available.

What are your views on the lack of measurability in the OOH advertising domain? Given the fact that there are no numbers to go by, what tools do you use to measure campaigns deliveries?

OOH as a medium has largely been cluttered with a mix of large number of small and few big players, unfortunately, because of a lack of a common unification platform which might help in the evolution of a measurability and ROI model, the advertisers are suffering, lack of a syndicated study and ROI model have been the issues plaguing this medium since a long time- stopping us from making significant investments in this medium. We have been utilising local market intelligence, footfalls, traffic density etc. to put a method to madness. However, we still await the evolution of a good ROI Model.

What are the major changes that you would like to see in the functioning of the outdoor advertising industry and what are your advice to the industry practitioners to aid the growth of the outdoor advertising industry?

The major change which I would like to see is the evolution of an effective ROI model and scientific planning tools, which might help us in planning and implementing a more effective advertising campaign. We are not able to extract multiple format synergies which might helps us in adding a multiplier effect in our campaigns. There is also a significant need of better monitoring and reporting formats which would reinforce our faith further in exploiting the power of this medium.

Going forward, do you see Maruti significantly increasing their investments in the OOH advertising domain?

Maruti would definitely be increasing the investments in this domain on an incremental basis but a lot would depend on evolution of the ROI, monitoring and measurement formats. We believe OOH to be a great medium to leverage and you would see us utilising this medium prominently in our campaigns.
 
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