Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Captive Audience Networks

Kumudini Manda & Krishnakant Jonnalagadda | NMIMS

Captive Audience Networks

Catching the ephemeral attention!!!

Rita was telling her friends in a kitty party about the new spa that has opened up in an area in Mumbai. She went on to the extent of telling them the packages available, the timings and other branches of the spa. Ask her how she came to know about the new spa, and out came the answer, ‘at my dentist’s office’.

Everybody in the room was bowled over by the answer and all the ladies surrounded Rita to know her story from which came the revelation of Rita spotting not only the new spa but also the offers in a supermarket close by and the investment options in the bank across the street. Rita was witness to the entire show on a single screen at the dentist while waiting her turn to see the dentist and get her root canal done. And thus the likes of Rita are increasingly becoming spectators to the concept of Captive Audience Networks (CAN).

The new ‘CAN’oe of modern marketing

It is one of the fastest picking up trends in the marketing arena. The real beauty of the medium lies in the gamut of players who can throw their hat in the arena. So, it shouldn’t be surprising if we see Costa Coffee letting people know its newest menu, HCL announcing new hires, Asian Heart Institute showing off its latest infrastructure or AXA insurance giving tips on investments one after the other. Seeing this great potential, no one is staying behind in exploiting the latest proposition to market themselves.

With the advent of cable, viewers were spread thinner across more stations and they would skip commercials altogether. Add on the burgeoning trend of outgoing population in urban areas. Thus, Television Advertising may not necessarily suffice. One of the reasons for this can be the fact that with tooth sweating competition in every sector, creating a strong “pull” strategy only via television is a difficult proposition. The trend of Out of Home digital media is a product of this vacuum. It facilitates a much stronger recall which helps to lead the customer to the Point of Purchase. The idea of “place-based” media networks is highly compelling to advertisers – because a network could deliver a captive audience such as at a doctor’s office or auto repair facility, mall, hotels etc.

Captive Audience Network, or more aptly the out of home media is catching up fast with marketers who find it a combination of two things that make it a great deal. One is the power of television, the other is the increasing need to be targeted in your communication spend.

Out of Home Media is increasingly being looked at as a premium medium which reaches out to the 'difficult-to-reach' and SEC A consumers wherever they are, thus offering the advertiser an all day primetime.

In fact, the service providers claim that what they provide is an opportunity for advertiser brands and intelligent consumers to come together in an environment where there is a common interest. It could include anything from product placement, sponsorship of editorial items and the chance for advertisers to provide an expert spokesperson to contribute to one of the editorial items.

CAN, as it is more often called, was found to enhance the image of participating retailers and the mall in consumers' minds and there was a general consensus that it created a sense of modernity. It has also brought the brand to life by creating a platform for not only advertising but also generating a need to educate. It has gone beyond the traditional boundaries of spot advertising and works with the agency and client to come up with innovative ways

The Current ‘CAN’vas

There are plenty of territories that are already being conquered, in railway stations and airports, gyms, cinemas, hospitals, hotels and conference centres. There are largely unexplored, markets in schools and universities, in libraries and museums, military bases, police stations, historic attractions and amusement parks and many more.

With a varied user base, where one size cannot fit all, there is scope for a much wider range of solutions and approaches. There is room for everyone from the vendor of tiny shelf-edge displays for the supermarket to the supplier of huge video walls at football grounds, from the producer of five-minute mini-documentaries to the designer of static digital posters. It is a highly cost effective medium to implement as the entire package of software, hardware installation and running costs are covered within a sum of the range 1.5-3 lakhs.

As mentioned above, the main appeal of a CAN is that it enables retailers to target shoppers close to the point of purchase, where the buying decision can be influenced. It also offers a potential additional revenue stream, with the mall's retail tenants providing a ready-made pool of potential advertisers. A newspaper or radio or TV, needs some sort of customer involvement. With CAN ads, all they have to do is walk in and they are involved.

The Rising ‘CAN’didates

The world of marketing has a pace and the slick style of change which can put even the Alfred Hitchcock books to extreme anxiety. Any new trend that germinates sees multiple gardeners watering the seeds to reap the best fruits. Captive Audience Networks’ potential is widely recognized and accepted. WalMart’s revenue figures of over a $100 million based on leveraging this medium is a strong enough indicator to show its potential. The Indian CAN market is still in its salad days. Few of the main players, who are ready with their forks, if not daggers, are:

Live Media:

One of the heavyweights of CAN in India is Live Media. With an expansive network covering over 300 Quick Service Restaurants, 300 BPO’s, 100 Corporate Offices, 200 Hospitals, 40 Rural Retail hubs, live media has certainly been able to hold its own. It has been able to rope in outlet locations in the form of esteemed clients like McDonalds, Dominos, DLF Diners, Convergys, Genpact, Fortis Healthworld, ITC Choupal, Hariyali etc. This wide spectrum of outlets gives them a huge footfall which in turn is a lucrative proposition to drive in more advertisers.

It claims to hold a special positioning because of its ability to undergo the installation process after extensive research so that the consumer psychographics and the location’s local flavour, both are amalgamated. This ensures that the issue of visibility is successful and simultaneously does not come across as the fifth wheel in the ambience of the outlet. This customised approach is one of their strong footholds over the competitors. With a range of around 13 in-house branded programs, Live Media intends to provide wholesome entertainment to the audience, apart from a platform of advertising. This, they believe, is necessary because the idea is to make the taxing phase of wait more pleasant and captivate the attention of the viewers for that period. The attention span varies from outlet to outlet as well. One can expect a more attentive viewer at a dentist’s waiting room than at a retail outlet. Thus, it is important to ensure that the programs are ably customized and not too elaborate in the manner of expression.

Ooh Media:

Another bellwether in this segment, Ooh Media, spans across a whopping 18 cities with more than 4500 screens and accessibility to over 70 million people in a month. They cater to

. (Photo courtesy: Ooh official website)

more than 300 clients belonging to sectors of Telecom, FMCG, Consumer Durables, Media & Entertainment, Travel & Tourism etc. They believe their USP lies in providing ‘flexicasting’, a tool they use to telecast the brand communication message varying according to the local flavour of the market. This interesting phenomenon of local market, gives them an edge over the competitors as local marketing is a strong order of the day and flexicasting is a brilliant medium to tap this aspect. The adjacent Wheel sums up their entire model lucidly.

Ooh media takes immense pride in the fact that their customer base has a non pareil appeal to it. Their customers are the opinion leaders, decision makers and wealth creators. Such customers have a major role to play in expanding the purview of Word of Mouth Publicity.

Apart from these two major players, there are other emerging players like Digital Signage Network, TAG Media, Laqshya Digital media, Nec India etc. whose foray into this segment has made the battleground extremely hot for the marketers.

‘CAN’ they or ‘CAN’t they??

So is this buzz about CAN for real or is it just another passé trend that would die down even before it can breathe in completely? When it comes to the CAN sector, expanding the user base can only be a good thing for the sector. It grows the market for screen-media products and services in terms of sheer size and also reduces the sector's vulnerability to changing fortunes, or business models, or marketing philosophies among its customers.

Statistics clearly indicate that this trend is here to stay. A nationwide survey conducted by Ooh Media in association with research firm Neilsen, revealed interesting results that the screens had a recall value of over 70% and 90% people recalled the ads they saw on those screens. A city like Mumbai enjoys a weekly traffic count of around 25 lakhs, which is a very strong number for any marketer to cater to. Thus, neglecting this rising segment would be like living in a fool’s paradise. There are a few challenges that this network offers which has to be taken into consideration-

The Return of the Silence Era

“Alam Ara” marks its recognition as the first talking movie of Hindi Cinema. The silence was finally broken and the celluloid burst out with dialogues and the power of sound. But the wheel seems to have taken a reverse turn and now we see ourselves standing on the same pavement again. Be it Tom & Jerry or blockbusters like Wall-E, silent media has always been an intriguing medium to explore. In the era of talking ads in Print media, we welcome you to the world of Silent Ads. CAN has recreated this new paradigm of advertising. So many times when we drop in at a coffee place or a pizza joint, we see the silent ads on this digital media, which goes down well because it is not intrusive at all, but still grabs eye balls because of the interesting graphics.

This smart ploy is a challenge for both the marketers as well as the creative intelligentsia of the advertising agencies. After all, every opportunity comes with an asterisk.

The ‘Yin-Yang’ leads to the Big Bang

With CAN, a marketer can find no limit to his creativity. One of the most ground breaking ways to arrest a customer’s attention was in using a woman's voice in the men's room and vice versa. There are many brands that prefer this medium of advertising in restrooms as with its getting noticed much more, it also helps you target on gender basis. It can also be applied in the in-house stores wherein the offers about men’s segment are displayed in the women’s section and vice versa. This leads to a better probability for the customer to hit the other end of the store, which might otherwise be conveniently ignored.

This innovative idea and tackling the challenges should ensure that the canvas of CAN has flying colours to boast of.

The ‘CAN’oe’s future

The future looks bright and sunny for this media to grow, subject to condition the medium stays flexible and fluid rather than succumbing to stagnation. It should not fall prey to complacency seeing the current trend reports. It needs to come up with innovative ways to make the product in sync with the changing times. Few possible ways of doing this can be

- They need to make the medium more interactive. With the growing trend of Wi-Fi availability in the outlets that CAN targets, a more interactive setup would attract more attention.

- Although it is primarily an Out of home phenomenon, a rational expansion would be to tap the DTH market. They should come across as a Value Added Service for a DTH provider. Their functionality would be a one stop junction for all local advertisements, event promotions etc.

- The Rural markets can provide great impetus to this service. The companies can use this medium to promote their BTL activities, setup kiosks with 24*7 telecast of the benefits of the service the companies offer rather than brazen selling.

It is important to keep this model fresh and rejuvenate it with the changing times. The reason is that it is a medium which is catering to the attention span of the people on the move. Thus, the execution has to be highly precise.

“The greatest enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan”, said Carl Von Clausewitz. Nothing can be closer to truth than this. It is important to understand that every new medium would meet resistance and would take time to gel with the status quo. At the end of the day, it is the people who drive the market. If you know your customers, you know that the cash sitting in the bank would have a visit from their relatives soon.

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