Why outdoor advertising remains an overlooked revenue opportunity in India

Outdoor advertising is always equated with billboard/ hoarding, which has long affected the perception sphere of stakeholders like advertisers, media owners and ad agencies, government departments. With the Government of India’s thrust on infrastructure development, new destinations like metro, malls, multiplex, airports, corporate hubs are coming up in a big way. Outdoor advertising has evolved as an ecosystem rather than just being “media” in the traditional sense. 

In the age and time as the cities are getting wider and its populace becoming bigger, local bodies are facing existential challenges to raise/ generate the funds required to provide amenities to the general public. Of all the advertising mediums like TV, Radio, Print, Internet; Outdoor is the only one which provides revenue through advertising to the local civic bodies like City Corporation, Municipal Corporation. 

Sample this below data which, in fact, highlights the plight of outdoor advertising. The growth aspect should have been a boon to outdoor advertising, but has, in fact, resulted in its further fragmentation.


Type of Towns/UAs/OGs

No. of Towns


(in absolute terms)


(in % terms)

2011 Census

2001 Census


Statutory Towns






Census Towns






Urban Agglomerations






Out Growths





Now, imagine having 7,935 towns in the country (Statutory 4041 + Census Towns 3894 as per census 2011) and there being 7,935 Outdoor Advertising Policy and its bylaws, each interpreting the Outdoor Advertising framework differently. It is a perfect quicksand quagmire, which makes it difficult to assess the depth of the abyss resulting in industry going into stasis mode rather than going for plan of action mode. 

It is for the this reason that even the best advertising spend estimates studies show single digit growth forecast, which makes outdoor look more like a tertiary medium of advertising and which keeps it at the bottom of the hierarchy of most preferred medium of advertisement pyramid. 

Let’s make an attempt to size up OOH advertisement revenue generation potential.

  • Patiala city has a population of close to 4 to 4.5 lakh (which is just 0.0003% of total population of India). The total area of the Patiala Municipal Corporation is just about 50.11 sq km. Municipal Corporation earns revenues from advertising close to Rs 1.45 crore – Rs 2 crore annually.
  • Thane, Navi Mumbai, and Panvel, and the entire stretch along the Mumbai-Pune Expressway are seeing significant OOH traction. All these areas have witnessed a major infrastructure makeover in recent years, and with burgeoning traffic on the roads, the OOH media assets are attracting a gamut of advertisers. Interestingly, these areas have not only conventional OOH media, but also transit, mall and cinema advertising media, doing an estimated annual business of Rs 150 crore, which will likely double in the next 2-3 years. The rise of non-metro OOH markets like Thane, Navi Mumbai and Panvel will lead to spurt in the overall regional OOH business.
  • Southern Railways earned Rs 21 crore as advertisement revenue and in the next year it hopes to earn Rs 45 crore.
  • South Delhi Municipal Corporation’s (SDMC) initiatives with digital media tenders, revenue sharing from mall media and shop signage have helped raise the revenues from Rs 135 crore to Rs 150 crore for the financial year 2018-19 and it looks at achieving Rs 200 crore in revenues for the next financial year. Earlier, it had managed to increase its advertising revenues alone from Rs 40-45 crore in 2015-16 and to Rs 120 crore in 2016-17, which is an impressive three-fold raise.
  • Jalandhar MC intended to float e-tenders for a massive number of sites in year 2018 for Rs 18.15 crore per annum reserve price.
  • In Karnataka alone, outdoor advertising provides direct and indirect employment to nearly 10 lakh people. The employment factor, when considered on pan India basis, will be in multiple folds.

All the above instances point to one thing in common – Outdoor advertising’s true potential has not been harnessed to its optimum. 

Expert View 

Vishwanath Kini, Director – Marketing AdMAVIN
“Outdoor Advertising opportunities and avenues are growing by leaps and bounds. The way Outdoor spends is captured needs further refinement. The above mentioned illustrations highlight the facts that if such outgrowth areas and Tier 2 cities have the potential to generate ad revenue, then think of the potential 7,900+cities / towns hold. The actual OOH advertising realisation potential is more than Rs 10,000 crore, which is currently valued at around Rs 3,000- Rs 3,500 crore. The only way forward is to have Uniform National Policy of Outdoor Advertisement guidelines (UNPOA guidelines), which will establish standard framework and design sustainable OOH practices. This has to be a Public-Private consultative affair. The implementation needs to be done in a phased manner. The industry body is committed to the compliance with the Government order, but would need an intervening period to complete the ongoing long-term campaigns. Also, the volume of supply of green material will have to be scaled up to meet the current advertising demand. AdMAVIN Forward Thinking, a dedicated planning and research arm, is making strides to collate the granular data points to predict the trends before others and challenge the status quo.”

Gowri Shankar, Co-Founder, AdMAVIN
“The need of the hour is to make Outdoor medium to become more than a backdrop or drum-beating medium. It is imperative for the OOH industry to amplify its value perceived in the market. As the Census 2011 suggests, growing urbanisation which is set to grow further in the coming decade is a huge boon for the OOH industry. Data and tech oriented OOH advertising is a growing phenomenon. AI / ML powered AdMAVIN proprietary geospatial tech solutions is investing heavily in research and working with the leading industry players and stakeholders to build metrics in each segment within OOH media that will be able to give specific reasons for being a part of a media plan. OOH is not just about advertising anymore, it is about understating the power of consumer behaviour by comprehending their mindset and interests. The objective is to uplift outdoor advertising in the media hierarchy preference pyramid of the advertisers and give its due which is long overdue. 

(Source of the article – Census 2011, pan India OOH news coverage references taken from multiple media website and news articles over the past few years to articulate the point of view hitherto from an unexplored angle supported by facts and figures.)


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