Blank billboards wait for ads


July 2, 2013

Priyanka Pani, The Hindu Businessline
Mumbai, July 16, 2013

It is definitely a slowdown when marketers desperately woo shoppers with deep discounts.

And things are definitely heading towards an economic slump when they cut down on advertisements, especially hoardings and billboards. A drive from Nariman Point in South Mumbai towards the suburbs on the expressway says it all.

At least four out of six billboards on this stretch have gone blank, waiting for advertisers. Clearly, advertising and promotional spends are shrinking even as the supply of such ad space outstrips demand in the metros.

Prices for some billboards are down 30-40 per cent this year, say industry sources. The current rate for a billboard on Marine Drive or Western Express Highway is Rs 2-8 lakh a month, depending on the size. Last year, it was Rs 8-12 lakh. In the last three years, advertisers have cut outdoor ad spends by 30-40 per cent, according to media buyers. Roshan Publicity, Selvel, Alkah, Laqshya, Zenith and Hansa are among the big players in billboard advertising.

“There has been a dip in bookings and prices. Monsoon is a lean season. That apart, there is a general slump in the industry as well,” said Rushabh Mehtalia, Brand Manager at Bright Outdoor.

New media such as advertising in airports, and on buses and trains is witnessing rapid growth and taking a larger share of the pie, according to KPMG.

The business has also been affected by telecom and financial services companies cutting ad budgets. However, luxury real estate, entertainment, automobiles, consumer durables and jewellery are regular advertisers. Of late, educational institutions, too, are using this medium, though it is a seasonal phenomenon.

Brand consultant Harish Bijoor says lack of innovation is making advertisers shun the out-of-home (OOH) segment. “In today’s highly cluttered marketing economy with myriad channels and publications, OOH needs to do different to stand out,” he says.

Devangshu Dutta, founder of marketing research firm Third Eyesight, says that regulatory issues such as heavy licence fees and taxes, and the lack of a unified common measurement platform, have hit the hoarding business.