It's been an unusual monsoon bonanza for outdoor specialists and billboard owners in Mumbai. Hoardings in the city have witnessed an unusual 100 per cent occupancy this season, though, traditionally, May to September is a lean period for the outdoor advertising industry.
"The insurance and telecom boom last year and the print media war that's being fought through the outdoor this year has ensured sustained occupancy for billboards," says Rupadhish Roy, senior manager at Prime Site, the outdoor agency that strategised Hindustan Times' campaign.
Print media brands such as DNA, Hindustan Times, Mumbai Mirror and Indian Express have plastered the city with their campaigns. DNA is ubiquitous, Hindustan Times has blocked 70 select locations and Mumbai Mirror along with The Economic Times has booked a whopping 350 billboards.
Needless to say, discounting is out. Says Adille Sumariwalla, CEO, Mid-day Outdoors: "If current occupancy levels continue till September, the rates will go through the roof."
Patel bridge on Marine Drive already has a long waiting list. "Nobody is really evaluating if spending Rs 750,000 on it for seven days yields good returns," says Sumariwalla. Hindustan Times has booked Patel bridge for 20 days (it can be extended) in July to promote its new Mumbai edition launched on Thursday.
"HT is a known brand but it had to advertise because competitors were flooding the market with hoardings. We decided on a clutter-free campaign targeting premium audiences for HT," says Roy.
Adds DNA's general manager A L Sriram: "Newspapers like Times of India use their own media to advertise, but if that is not available you use a medium that offers most visibility."
According to industry estimates, India's outdoor spends in 2004-2005 were Rs 900 crore (Rs 9 billion). Of this, Mumbai accounted for Rs 325 crore (Rs 3.25 billion). Again, 30 per cent of this came from media. Today, the new newspapers in Mumbai are spending between Rs 1.5 crore (Rs 15 million) to Rs 2.5 crore (Rs 25 million) a month on billboard campaigns.
Even the mobile advertising truck owners are raking in profits thanks to Mumbai's media wars. Rajesh Chauhan of Kino sign trucks says that DNA has booked 4 out of its 12 trucks for a three-month period.
"Today demand exceeds supply and I no longer have to offer package deals as incentives. I can charge Rs 5.5 lakh (Rs 55 million) a month and still not have a truck available to rent out," he adds. Mumbai's outdoor company M' Cons' fleet of trucks is similarly booked.And if DNA's Sriram is to be believed, print media's billboard advertising blitz may not be phased out in a hurry. "Once the product is out (scheduled launch: July end), visibility will continue to be important because ultimately an advertiser will buy on the strength of readership."