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VOL. XXIV NO. 14, November 1-15, 2014
Advertising goes outdoors
(by R.V. Rajan (Feedback welcome on

(Continued from last fortnight)


Madras was well known for its huge, larger-than-life hoardings on Mount Road, promoting new and old feature films. The idea was first conceived by the legendary film director S.S. Vasan for the blockbuster movie Chandralekha in the early 1950s. The idea caught on and, over the years, not only films but also products and services of all types started featuring their messages on hoardings occupying every vantage point on the roads of Madras, leading to mindless growth of the medium. Many accidents later, the State Government passed a law in 2008 barring hoardings in public places.

For over four decades, thousands of talented artists made a living out of manually painting the big hoardings, using miniature drawings as reference. The advent of the easy-to-assemble flexi sheets, printed with the hoarding messages, threw these talented people out of job. The banning of the medium completely in Chennai left many people dependent on this medium literally on the streets.

Technology has opened up new avenues for outdoor displays of advertising. The ubiquitous giant-size hoardings have been replaced by a slew of other outdoor media, now popular as OOH (Out-Of Home) advertising. These include posters, banners, kiosks, bus shelters, wall sites, hoardings, mobile vans, all vehicles that move, and dynamic display units in and outside the mega malls.

When hoardings dominated the roadscape.

Rural marketing

Rural marketing, a buzz word for several decades, has now become a necessity for many brands of FMCG and consumer durable products. It has seen some pioneering initiatives from Madras. Though promoting products in villages through road shows using vans was in vogue right from the 1940s by companies like TTK group, it was Thomas Maliakkal, a Madras-based adman, who started ORA (Outdoor Rural Advertising) to offer a well-planned audio-visual van operation to reach the villagers of Tamil Nadu. The idea of featuring multiple brands in every operation, so that the cost of such an effort is shared by advertisers, was a pioneering effort at the time. After him, R. Parthasarathy of Kripa Outdoor has been an important player in this field for the last 30 years.

Grant Advertising and, then, Anugrah Marketing headed by R.V. Rajan pioneered several rural communication programmes for their agri-input clients and, later, for all types of products leading to more and more clients understanding the importance of rural marketing. Starting of the Rural Marketing Association of India (RMAI) in 2005 was an initiative of Anugrah Madison. RMAI continues to be actively involved in disseminating new knowledge on rural marketing to the industry.

Social media

Though corporates in Chennai have begun to use social media, it is yet to get the attention it deserves. There are a few social media specialists like Unmetric and a few individuals who are advising clients on social media. The best known name is Kirubha Shanker, who is based in Chennai.

Current scene

The last decade has seen a steady decline of traditional advertising spend in Chennai by FMCG companies (like Cavinkare) and consumer durable companies (like Hyundai and Ford), many of whom have moved their marketing departments to Mumbai or Delhi, leading to a major setback for the Chennai branches of the established multinational agencies.

Though there has been a tremendous growth in the advertising business from the retail, realty and educational sectors, it has not helped professional agencies because many of the new generation advertisers representing these groups are not professional in their approach and go for media agencies who are able to offer them lowest rates. Many of them even negotiate directly with the media for rates based on bulk booking, affecting the survival of many traditional agencies depending solely on commission income. Besides, technology has made it so easy for small design outfits to offer creative services to clients at low costs that the big agencies find themselves in a bind, unable to compete with such outfits.

Many of the multinational agencies have either closed shop in Chennai or have drastically cut down their operations. However, for an adman who is willing to adapt to the changing scene in Chennai, the profession still provides enough opportunities, as evident from the success of many local agencies.

Once considered an overgrown village that went to sleep by 9.00 p.m., Chennai during the past decade has acquired a 24x7 reputation. The city has drawn people from all parts of India. Result: The metropolis can offer anything that anyone wants! Be it the choice of food, product, service or even entertainment!

Old, tradition-rich conservative Madras is today a vibrant cosmopolitan Chennai. The young are willing to try out anything new! What better challenge than that for the advertising professional? I am sure that the Chennai advertising world will soon bounce back to its glorious past!


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In this issue

The sad state of our roads
Madras Landmarks - 50 years ago
Welcome sensitising of temple restorers
The early days of the I.A.S.
Madras beginnings of Hindi Prachar
Trying to save Jerdon's Courser
Advertising goes outdoors
Answering the need of the hour?
Studying during those 'Quit India' days

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Readers Write
Quizzin' With Ram'nan
Dates for Your Diary


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