In one of the latest developments, the road transport and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has issued an order to make highways a 'no advertising' zone. It has ordered the removal of all advertisement hoardings across the length and breadth of national highways.
As per published reports, government said, "It has been decided that the regional and liasoning officers within their jurisdiction will inspect the NHs (national highways) by prioritizing heavily trafficked NHs and other NHs in stages and submit inspection reports to the ministry for further necessary action."
The move came after the ministry felt that the advertisements cause distraction often leading to accidents. India has a national highway network of one lakh km which the government has planned to double in the next four years. The ministry has formed a special team that would work on the removal of hoardings by prioritizing the highways that have maximum congestion. National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has been tasked with the inspection of all highways on immediate basis.
The order will definitely have a big impact on the outdoor advertising industry in the country. There is no doubt that there are a lot of billboards on highways both from brands and non-brands.
AdAge India spoke to the experts in the OOH industry to understand the implication of the move on the industry which anyway was under lots of restrictions.
Suresh Balakrishna, CEO South Asia and Middle East, Kinetic Worldwide, feels that the whole system is going through a cleansing which he thinks is good for the industry and the economy. "A lot of proliferation of out-of-home hoardings has happened without proper regulation or with people circumventing the rules and regulations by means they could. By issuing this order, these people will clean it up. They will then come back with some well-thought out and well implemented regulations on how to tender out these hoardings to make them look aesthetically nice and at the same time not be a danger to vehicle. In Delhi too, Government knocked off all hoardings first and then they re-tendered. They have put done specifications about the height, distance from the road, structure and lot of media owners have tendered for it and have won it too. In the next three months, Delhi will have some really nice hoardings. I don't think this means end of the road for out-of-home advertising," adds Balakrishna.
However, Haresh Nayak, Regional Director, Posterscope APAC finds it a real shocker. "Advertising on national highways is not much since advertisers focus more on advertising in the city. The ad spend on NH would be only 5%-6% of the overall OOH media spend. Most of the advertising on highways is for truck oil or directional advertising (for resorts, motels, restaurants, townships). Government would be losing around Rs 150 Cr - Rs 200 Cr of revenue. However, highways within the city contribute a lot to the revenue, so the next question is that are these included in this order. The subject needs more clarity. It is a loss to everyone," shares Nayak.
To this Sanjeev Gupta, MD & CEO, Global Advertisers added by saying, "Any media is a form of communication and we have evolved over the years to be where we are today. Banning any media will not solve the purpose. The media can be modified but it should not be killed completely."
It is very difficult to assess at this point on what will be the fate of this order.