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World Outdoor Assoc. Asia Forum reports OOH on way to recovery

Dentsu (the world's largest advertising agency), APAC CEO and India chairman Ashish Bhasin pulled no punches in an enlightening interview with WOO President Tom Goddard which opened the October virtual outdoor advertising Asia Forum. Accurate measurement of results remains a key issue for out-of-home media.

Ashish Bhasin 1
The full 30-minute interview with Ashish Bahsin can viewed by clicking the image above

While Bhasin was bullish about the recovery in Asia - although he said it differed markedly country by country - and for the Out of Home medium, he was blunt about the issues still holding OOH back.  “So far the medium has not played to its fullest potential,” he said.

Ashish Bhasin CEO APAC and Chairman India
Ashish Bhasin

The two main issues for Bhasin that are holding OOH back in Asia (and, arguably, the world) are media owner consolidation (the lack of it) and audience measurement. On the latter he said he was still having the same discussions as he had 20 years ago. “You can’t be a proper industry if you can’t be measured.”

On consolidation he said that OOH was finding moving forward difficult, particularly in digital, as the Asian market - China and India especially - was highly fragmented with a consequent lack of investment. Even standard poster sizes were difficult to determine in some markets, he said.

In part he blamed the major global players for this. “What they need to do is partner with national operators so we have a business that’s global and local. So far this hasn’t happened.  We’ve seen consolidation on the agency side but not among media owners. There's too much squabbling.”

Strong rebound

“Out of Home is bouncing back strongly from the pandemic but if it’s to compete effectively with digital in the long term then it needs to go more digital too. That can only be achieved by consolidation and longer-term investment."

On everyone's agenda at the moment is sustainability. Bhasin said Dentsu was "passionate" about sustainability, moving rapidly to zero carbon. But he acknowledged this was an issue for OOH media too with the need to move rapidly to more eco-friendly methods of printing traditional posters and cleaner energy for digital. 

"Brands are demanding we do this," he said "It's become a major issue but one where it's also possible to gain a clear commercial advantage."

A historic commercial advantage for OOH is creativity. “It's been called the last unfair competitive advantage,” Bhasin says. "You can do a lot with a little. Just one hoarding on the Air India building on Nariman Point in Mumbai built their brand for decades. Just one billboard."

Coke Kings Cross
Coke's 'universal language' OOH at King's Cross

"Amul milk has built its brand solely on posters. Globally, Coke speaks a universal language on OOH. 

"Creativity is OOH's core strength. We should be doing much more to promote it.”

The World Out of Home Organisation is headquartred in Switzerland and has global members - in Australia-New Zealand it is oOH! media and JCDecaux.

 The full interview with Ashish Bhasin is here: