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Monday, 30 May 2011 09:00 (IST)
Gaurav Seth, vice president and marketing head, MAX'OOH is an essential part of our marketing mix'
Gaurav Seth is the vice president and marketing head of MAX. In his current portfolio, Seth spearheads the channel’s marketing campaigns with the vision of sustaining and building on MAX’s brand, appeal and reach. In a long career spanning 15 years, he has been associated with building and monetising many successful brands including the pathbreaking ICL, Zee Sports, Altavista’s operations in India and ESPN STAR Sports to name a few. In an exclusive interview with network2media's Neha Nagpal, Seth talks about the importance of outdoor advertising in the promotional activities for his brand. Edited excerpts:
What importance does OOH advertising have in the media mix for promoting your channel?

OOH is an essential part of our marketing mix. Whenever we consider promoting a property on our particular channel, we evaluate all the mediums available from the point of view of cost and reach. Depending on these evaluations, we decide whether OOH advertising will be a part of a campaign or not.

With changing urban lifestyles and people (Specially youth) spending more time out of home, has there been a deeper involvement with outdoor advertising for your brand in recent years?

Yes, there has been. We try to reach out to this segment more and more wherever they are present. Therefore, sometimes if this is the specific target audience for any campaign, then we might not chose any other medium and go with just OOH as a means to get through to this audience.

What are the discernible new trends that you have noticed in the outdoor domain in recent years?

There are a lot of new trends that are emerging. There is a wider variety of media available now. Earlier, it was only hoardings and bus shelters, but now, wherever you go or travel through, whether you are in a bus, train, or in a mall, in movie theatre, everywhere you go, you are subjected to advertisements. It has expanded. So, every time you go out you have a good chance of being exposed to advertising messages.

Since your channel has a unique content combination of films and sports, do you associate with live sporting activities as a promotional tool for your channel?

We have not done that in a while. We have not sponsored tournaments or any kind of sporting activity. We have the IPL property on our channel. It is such a big property that we have not really felt the need to sponsor live sporting event/activity. By itself, the IPL property has larger than life persona. We did not want to duplicate this in any other manner.

However, quite a few years back, we had a very successful property called 'gully cricket'. But that was long time ago.

What importance does on-ground activations have in your brand building initiatives?

Quite a bit! We do a lot of activities for our movie channel business. Every month we have a film festival on Max. For example – 'Ab tak Bachchan' or 'King Khan'. Basically, it is a collection of films based on the theme (action, comedy etc) or specifically on some film star. So, to promote this from time to time we have initiated on-ground activations in various cities. Sometime, when the theme is comedy, we engage stand-up comedians to perform or if it celebrity specific movie festival, then, we involve people who can mimic the star acts, dance steps etc to engage people. Activations offer the unique opportunity to establish one on one contact, which is not possible with traditional outdoor media.

Is mall advertising an important media option for you? 

Yes! Sometimes we do activations inside malls and we also create branding presence through dropdowns, standees and other display formats.

Does airport advertising deliver value for your brand building activities?

Airport advertising is a high impact high cost medium. We have used airport advertising majorly for the first time to promote IPL. We had put countdown timers at airports, about which network2media also published a story. That was the first time we have forayed into airport advertising and we have been pretty successful in terms of impact.

Does outdoor advertising deliver better value in smaller cities as compared to metros?

It gives better value because it is cheaper. It depends on what your priorities are. It depends on who you are trying to reach. If your audience primarily lives in smaller cities, then it is a good way to use it, because it is a cheaper medium. Big cities like Bombay and Delhi cost a whole lot more. However, they also contribute to a large portion of TRPs and sales. It depends on what your objectives are. Value is a function of the cost incurred to reach the consumer.

What are your thoughts on the efficacy of digital OOH as a medium in our country?

We have been using these screens for quite some time now. We have done some long term deals with the OOH screen providers to advertise our channel on their screens whether these are at retail shops, a 'Big Bazaar' kind of retail outlet or at 'Cafe Coffee Day'. We have done deals where our ad plays out for two-three times every hour. And this has worked well for us. It is spreading; it offers you a captive audience. Even at places like airport buses, cinema halls etc. digital OOH has expanded in the last two-three years. It has worked well for us and I think it is a great medium to opt for. For us, it is not an expensive proposition compared to the kind of exposure it gives the brand.

Are you satisfied with the quality of innovations in the outdoor advertising domain in India?

I feel it needs to go a long way. We are lacking in terms of permissions. Today, whether you are doing outdoor in Mumbai, Delhi or any other city, either the city municipal corporation or authorities do not really give you a lot of options in terms of innovations. There are certain size controls, lightning controls, sound controls. So, it really does not leave much scope to play with innovations in outdoors. You really cannot do much in terms of creativity which sometimes you would like to do. If you look at the west, there are such amazing innovations happening right from larger-than-life cut-outs, live action or talking hoardings to very vibrant, colourful and funky neon lights. But in India, we really cannot do much, because every time you try it, the authorities come down hard on you. I think innovation in outdoors is still very limited in this country.

In the absence of a universal and credible measurement metrics, how do you evaluate ROI on your investments in the OOH advertising domain?

It depends on the kind of feedback we have received, whether people have noticed the communication. In the absence of measurement metrics, the feedback is through word of mouth and through the research we do. Through these indicators, we generally get an idea about the impact created by any campaign.

What steps can be taken by the OOH advertising industry to enhance its value offering to the brand owners?

The concerns I have already raised like permissions, innovations, ROI and cost. If all these things can be tackled in some manner, or if we happen to get some solutions for these, then it would be great for the brands as well as for the OOH industry.

Going forward, do you see the share of OOH advertising going up in your overall ad spend?

No! I think it will remain pretty much the same. I do not think it will go up or down. As a medium, we definitely use it. But as I said earlier, we evaluate each medium and hence decide upon to what extent we have to use any medium for a particular communication. If there is a need of using OOH more than other medium, then the share of OOH goes up. Otherwise, I do not see the overall ad spend on this medium changing significantly.
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