WOO Asia Forum: Dentsu boss Ashish Bhasin: Out of Home is on the way to recovery - but must try harder

November 01, 2021

Dentsu APAC CEO and India chairman Ashish Bhasin pulled no punches in an enlightening interview with WOO President Tom Goddard which opened this week’s virtual Asia Forum.

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.

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.”

“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"

"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.”

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