Stakeholders brainstorm on taking out-of-home industry out of the woods

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19pandemic, the outdoor industry, alongside other industries such as hotel business, transportation including airlines, education and event business, has suffered from slower or non-existent business. As a result, some stakeholders in the sector recently held a Zoom conference where they brainstormed on how to make the industry bounce bank and remain relevant during the Covid-19 and post Covid-19 pandemic periods.

Anchored by the Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria, OAAN, the event had in attendance leading marketing communications eggheads including president of OAAN, Emmanuel Ajufo, general manager, Brands and Communications, MTN, Richard Iweanoge, executive director, WIMN, representative of OMNICOM Media Group in West and Central Africa, Alaba Fadero, and Matt Angus-Hammond of Geopoll who were discussants.

Other discussants included the managing director of Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency, LASAA, Prince Adedamola Docemo, and the managing director of Meridian Concept, Alhaji Lere Alimi. The event was moderated by Babs Fagade, a seasoned practitioner.

In his remarks at the event, the president of OAAN, Emma Ajufo, lamented the challenging times the sector is facing. “Our clients who rely on eye-balls to place advert materials had to cancel exposures and contracts due to the lockdown occasioned by the Covid-19”,

He explained the steps the association is taking, such as the research project, to add value to their services and make the industry more accountable with empirical data to justify rates.

The OAAN president said the industry which has lost multi-million Naira businesses since the lockdown needs palliative to cushion the effects and keep the sector going. This can come in terms of relaxation of some regulations and fees, and soft loans from CBN. He called for support from all stakeholders

The general manager, Brands and Communications, MTN, Richard Iweanoge, while noting the challenges in the industry said the answer lies in the industry’s ability to provide verifiable data and in innovation. “It’s crucial that if we want to bring back the relevance of out-of-home advertising, practitioners should be innovative.”

He advised that the issue of questionable data around effectiveness of out-of-home advertising should be convincingly tackled, as, according to him, there should be evidence to show that even with the Covid-19 pandemic, people still move around. “It’s crucial that advertisers are able to justify their spend.”

Adedamola Docemo, managing director of Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency, LASAA, the outdoor regulatory body, advised that the focus now should be on creativity rather than rate reduction or palliatives. He assured the industry that LASAA is willing to give concession on areas of innovation and new corridors and highlighted several parley with OAAN as proof of his commitment to partnership and growing the industry.

He stated that the issue of palliatives generally would be treated holistically with the support of Lagos State Government but that it would be difficult to make a case now, since the pandemic and lockdown is ongoing.

On his part, Lere Alimi, managing director of Meridian Concept called for investment in data to give granular details of new routes and destinations visited by target audiences. He said high regulatory cost needs to be addressed and that the suggested pursuit of CBN palliative for OOH should be more vigorous. He called on the industry to explore mergers and acquisitions. He also suggested that practitioners should focus on innovation, creativity and reinvesting in the business as well as exploring the option of diversification into other businesses.

Executive director, WIMN, representative of OMNICOM Media Group in West and Central Africa, Alaba Fadero, advised OAAN to key into MIPAN’s and other sectoral groups’ current initiative to upgrade on audience measurement. He encouraged stakeholders, especially practitioners to think deeply, innovate on new ways to make advertising compelling as advertisers would always go where their audience is captured. “OOH should provide relevant empirical data to justify using OOH”.

On present state of the sector, Fadero said outdoor is on Pause mode. “When it will move to Play I don’t know.”

It was revealed Matt Angus-Hammond of Geopoll that a survey by his organization showed that OOH is more effective than online and TV. However, there is a strong challenge coming from online since it is good at encouraging engagement and interaction hence there is the importance for OOH to engage with online and drive interaction.