Exit tradional hoardings. Enter digital walls.

What it means to Brands down South?
Static Advertising will change to Real-time Interactive Advertising

End of the Traditional Hoardings/bill boards

Two decades back we were amazed by the huge painted hoardings on a highway or bill boards on top of a high rise building. The people who painted such exquisite works were called artists, even the great M.F Husain was one of them. All of a sudden entered flex printing technology and all those artists went jobless and nobody even knows how they survived later on in their lives. Not everyone is a M.F Husain in any way. Every brand moved on to hoarding advertisements using flex printing and the past decade saw huge developments in such hoarding advertisements. Now we don’t know what will happen to business men, both small & big players, in this field. In every field it is inevitable that new technology will replace older ones and that is what happened to the painted hoardings of yester year. Smart brand owners would have easily adapted to the change as they will be always updated about such technological changes. But in our country, especially down South, we never really get ready for changes that come up in future due to changes in the laws of the country. Now the time has come to say good bye to the hoardings/bill boards as we see a huge change in the way the law perceives such huge hoarding constructions. After all though a horse rickshaw might seem economical, environment friendly and a low cost maintenance option, if the law does not permit it on the road we have no other way but to change our mode of transport isn’t it?

Hoardings as an advertising medium

Hoardings are one of the biggest components of the media mix in South India now. The rise in cost of advertisements in print & electronic media and ineffectiveness of the digital marketing activities due to the absurd handling of the digital media space by spurious digital marketing agencies also have contributed to brand owners spending a huge amount from their media budget for hoardings as part of their OOH advertising campaigns. Governments, Courts & Environmentalists have time and again warned about the dangers of the flex material used for hoardings and the danger of the huge hoarding constructions itself. While most of the major cities in North India have moved on to other methods of erecting hoardings, here in South India especially Kerala we still go on erecting even unauthorized hoardings and use every trick in the book to sell them to brand owners. Brand owners too seems to be unaware about the changing perception about such flex printed huge hoardings and are going on spending huge budgets on such advertisements. Chennai for instance had banned flex hoardings years back and they have kept such boards out of the city limits for past several years. Now the latest instance of an unfortunate death of a girl in a mishap involving a huge flex board is sending repercussions around the brand owners and the first ones to see the need to change are the biggest spenders on hoardings – film fraternity. Both Tamil and Malayalam industry leaders have come out with statements clearly against use of such hoardings in their future campaigns. Brand owners will have to follow suit not out of the need but out of the necessity to abide the law enforcement agencies.

Now what next?

We South Indians have a general attitude towards change and are well known for being late to adapt to changes most of the times. So what next for OOH advertising should be phrased as ‘what is the present’ in hoarding advertising just because world over and even in major cities in India digital bill boards have already replaced traditional hoardings? Digital bill boards are using digital images or videos to show advertisements. These are environment friendly and at the same time cost effective to both the hoarding companies and the brand owners. Cost effective for the companies erecting digital boards as they can sell same space to multiple companies. Cost effective for the brand owners because they can use a same space to advertise different messages per day or even per hour.

Change in advertising approach

Digital bill boards are already in and it is going to stay for quite some time though the medium may change drastically along with the progress in new age technologies. For instance we may not have to wait for many years to see digital moving walls and even digital advertisements on moving vehicles as already commercial production of flexible screens have started in more developed countries. A product coming out of a screen and talking to us personally or a brand ambassador coming out of a screen on a street and talking to us about a product are not imaginary concepts any more with the advent of new age technology applications of virtual reality and artificial intelligence. So it is high time brand owners looked at these prospects and be ready to use such new mediums. What this means for your advertising strategy? A change in advertising content is inevitable as we are moving towards a digital, more interactive medium from a still image based content used in flex printed hoardings.
In shorter terms be ready to change your existing static communication content to real-time interactive communication content. This needs a lot more new set of tools & ideas to make your advertising content relevant to such new mediums. If still thinking this is not going to happen in the near future just check how many advertisements in a print medium like a newspaper or magazine you can see at least a QR code which is the basic tool to make a static print advertisement more interactive. This means even the print media which is the most static advertising message tool is adapting itself towards being interactive. Again down South most of the brands use a QR code just to divert the customer to the website or face book only to see the same advertisement displayed there where as smart brand custodians use such tools to make the customer interact with the brand or product and even initiate a purchase directly through that tool. Brand owners will have to be more focused on their idea or the story about their brand and the communication will have to be more interesting to the viewer in future rather than just announcing what the product or the brand wants to communicate. Every disruption brings in the need of new expertise and it is time to think how to adapt to this future challenge.