Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

No wow in OOH

Published in Jan-Feb 2015
Why brands are falling short of the OOH potential.
Lux grabbed attention with its ‘floral’ billboard displays, while Surf and Olper’s used LED lights to create interest at night time. On the other hand, Coca-Cola had a dining table covered in a red checked table cloth jutting out.
Lux grabbed attention with its ‘floral’ billboard displays, while Surf and Olper’s used LED lights to create interest at night time. On the other hand, Coca-Cola had a dining table covered in a red checked table cloth jutting out.

Given all the clutter and fragmentation on the electronic and print media, it is next to impossible to catch, leave alone hold audience attention. Innovative ideas and execution are required to ‘wow’ audiences and out of home (OOH) media is well placed to deliver in these areas.

The potential of OOH as a medium is especially significant in a country like Pakistan, which has a diversified geography and where a single TVC cannot effectively communicate to all consumers across regions and languages. OOH lends itself to creating different communications in several languages, thus making it easier to understand and more relevant to audiences.

The year 2014 has been a challenging one for brands in Pakistan. Sales and revenues have been under pressure due to the economic situation and the increasing cost of doing business. There has been a clear divide between big and small companies and even among brands within the same company. Companies focused on brands which had greater potential to generate more revenue and marketing spend was skewed accordingly. Smaller companies focused on trade offers and margins rather than on media, while smaller brands within big portfolios did not get their due share of the spend.

The OOH scene in 2014 was interesting primarily due to creative executions on fixed assets by most major brands. Although Unilever tried to be creative across its brand portfolio, it was Lux that led the way with its ‘floral’ billboard displays. Surf used LED lights to create interest at night time. Cornetto went the extra mile and created an interactive billboard where consumers could send and share messages. All these efforts were part of a good OOH strategy aimed at creating a wow factor and word of mouth.


Although brands were more creative in 2014, the focus was on fixed billboards (as opposed to moving OOH) and that too in the major towns, despite the fact that there are a lot of opportunities to make OOH more interactive and digital.


Coca-Cola too did a good job, especially with the billboard that had a dining table covered in a red checked table cloth jutting out. They also used OOH to amplify their ‘Share a Coke’ campaign and turned Coke delivery vans into an OOH medium.

Olper’s LED based billboards during Ramzan were also effective; however instead of going for moving OOH (as the brand did when it was launched), this year Olper’s stuck to fixed structures.

Although the telecom companies spent a lot on their 3G and 4G launches, they did not try anything exciting and relied on the usual cut-outs at roundabouts and run of the mill billboards. While Pepsi and Nestlé were among the big spenders of the year, there was no special creativity in their OOH advertising.

So, although brands were more creative in 2014, the focus was on fixed billboards (as opposed to moving OOH) and that too in the major towns, despite the fact that there are a lot of opportunities to make OOH more interactive and digital. However, brands and outdoor management companies are extremely risk averse when it comes to trying out of the box and new initiatives in OOH and one of the major reasons for this is the absence of effectiveness measurement tools to establish ROI, even though such measurement tools are available. Brands and outdoor management companies need to start investing in such tools in order to give the medium the same level of credibility that TV enjoys.

The technology required to calculate CPM for OOH (which will give brands a better understanding of ROI) will also require investment in terms of identifying those locations that can be used as OOH assets and then ensuring that this data is kept regularly updated. Once this is in place, brands will be able to select the most appropriate OOH format for their audience.

Brands will also need to start looking at the opportunities that OOH offers in terms of reaching their target audience. For example, there is no reason why placing digital panels on the sides of trucks (transit OOH) driven through targeted locations during set times would not prove as popular in Pakistan as it is in the US.

3D graphics on fixed billboards are another opportunity that can be considered, as is shop signage – and it is strange that brands in Pakistan still do not consider this as an OOH medium.

In summary, out of home is a powerful medium. Marketers need to make it a part of their marketing plan and work on creativity, innovation and digitalisation, along with measurement to bring out the maximum benefit out of this medium.

Muhammad Anwar Gaddafi is a consultant and trainer and has 15 years of
experience in sales, marketing and distribution. anwar.gaddafi@gmail.com