The outdoor media has continued to cling on to the third position with a 7.2 percent share of the Rs 17,690-crore advertising pie in 2007 after print and television at 47.9 and 40.2 percent shares respectively. According to the Pitch-Madison Advertising Outlook 2008, this media has grown by 28 percent in the year gone-by. The survey also clearly shows that the sector has recorded a significant growth over the previous year when it had 6.9 percent of the advertising spends of Rs 14,505 crore. Industry players cite several reasons for this impressive growth, as more and more advertisers have started looking at this media more seriously. Also, there has been a whole new bunch of marketers, especially modern retailers, real estate players and airlines taking seriously this media. But to its own credit, the outdoor segment roped in new customers by offering plenty of innovative formats on par with international standards. While relishing the growth, the industry also has set itself on a track of regularisation by forming an umbrella body called the Indian Outdoor Advertising Association. "This high growth was driven by many factors with the foremost being the infrastructure growth. New highways have come up across the country, and new airports are being built in the metros. These factors have opened up huge opportunities for us. We have seen over 300 percent growth," claims Times Innovative Media managing director Sunder Hemrajani. The agency notched up high growth on account of the New Delhi and Mumbai international airports. Started operations in 2006, Times Innovative Media, popularly known as Times OOH Media, has already made its presence felt and enlisted big clients like HSBC and Barclays to its roasterÂ during the past year. The ongoing economic boom has also indirectly spurred the growth of outdoor advertising as more people are on the move for reasons of work and leisure. To the glee of advertisers who want more people out of their homes, there has been a manifold increase in the number of people on the move. Another major growth driver is the increasing clutter in the mass media, fragmented by the bulging number of satellite television channels, radio and the print. Yet another reason for this growth is the comparative price advantage this medium offers to clients. Apart from all these external factors, innovation and the rise in the number of stakeholders have also proved to the drivers of growth.Â "There is a paradigm shift towards the digital format today. With huge number of malls and multiplexes coming up across the towns and cities, marketers want to use the opportunity to reach out to their target groups through digital screens. International street furniture, LCD screens in malls, LED display panels are some of the new types of outdoor advertising happening lately. The airports are also getting revolutionised with world-class signages taking up the prominent slots,'' says Clear Channel India national head Robin Carruthers. If our imagination was monotonously stuck only to the rectangular hoardings lined up along the roads, popping up out of the terraces and teeming up the streets until a few months years back,Â the scene has changed for the better now, with endless innovative formats visible on bus shelters, kiosks, signages, unipoles, mobile display vans, LED screens and the like. Blue-casting is an emerging tool that uses a digital mode placed on a hoarding or a bus shelter to communicate a brand message using blue-tooth technology to all those with compatible mobile phones in a particular range is a new attractive format. Also, using live models to create more excitement surrounding the brand is another innovation in the industry. Brands such as BBC World, Bru Coffee, Sony Ericsson, Zapak.com and many others have used this tool quite a bit in the past year. The advent of more international players have also given an impetus to this media. Agencies like Clear Channel, Posterscope, JCDecaux and the latest entrant Stroer Media have virtually forced a revamp in the domestic arena. For these international players, India with the second fastest growing GDP and over aÂ billion population throws open vast potential, says JCDecaux managing director Pramod Bhandula. If many of them have started reaping the benefits, the late entrants like German major Stroer OOH Media India are just into the ground work. "We have also been identifying places where our technology can be effectively used. Most of this preparatory work is nearly over so that we may roll out in 2008," says its country head and chief exective Indrajit Sen. The entry of international biggies also extends a positive signal to the domestic industry, as Percept OOH president Sanjay Pareek sees it. "The quality of asset will be better and they will bring in professionalism and transparency in the industry. Their move is welcome. But we need to see what kind of investment plans they have as progress of their participation is slow," quips Stroer Media head matter-of-factly. The year also has seen some positive trend in the regulatory sphere as the industry is growing very fast both in termsÂ of revenues as well as in the number of players. Another development was the Anil Ambani promoted Big FM making a foray into this space the launch of Big Street. Headed by Big FM business development vice-president Jayyant Bhokare, this division deals with advertising options like billboards, street furniture, multiplexes and malls formats. Big Street has also acquired advertising rights for display panels at the Metro stations in the Capital. Consolidating itself as an industry, the year has also witnessed the birth of the Indian Outdoor Advertising Association. Selvel Advertising, Jagran Engage, Times Innovative Media, Clear Channel, Prakash Arts and Laqshya Media are the founding members of this body. The immediate agenda of the new-formed association is to facilitate fixing of jurisdiction over outdoor advertising at various levels such as local administration and state governments. "The primary objective of the association is to promote, protect and advance the rightful interests of outdoor media and outdoor advertising media companies and associated businesses. It will ensure co-operation, free and fair competition amongst agencies and deal with factors affecting the outdoor industry", says the chairman of association Noomi Mehta, who doubles up as the chairman and managing director of Selvel Advertising. While our survey projects a lowerÂ growth rate in 2008 at 14 percent in comparison to the 28 percent in 2007, it is projected to touch Rs 1,454 crore. With traditional media getting more cluttered, the out-of-home media stands tall as a critical medium to connect with the consumers and capture their attention when they are more receptive outside their homes. The changing social behaviour driving more people out of homes in search of jobs and recreation is also proving to be fertile for this medium, which is on the path of a better future.