“Brands go where People are. Advertising will happen!”: Gautam Bhirani, CEO, BarTalk India

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In the last two decades, the media and advertising industry has seen a major shift from offline to online as the millennials have stopped responding to the traditional media in the same way as they do to an online, social media generated content. This has resulted in creation of some ground breaking and revolutionary outlets and innovations, to grab peoples’ attention as well as for the brands to advertise on.

We spoke at length with Mr. Gautam Bhirani, Founder and CEO, BarTalk India which is India’s first Realtime Social Display Network, driven by user-generated content and doing some phenomenal work in connecting people and their stories, through live large digital displays of their social media content with others in community. He shared his views on future of OOH, potential of DOOH, importance of User Genrated Content and Advertising Innovations.

Q:  How would you define BarTalk?

“Not Just an AD SPACE”

BarTalk is a Community, connected Realtime on a Digital Canvas spread across the most Trending Bars in the city. Built for People and driven by UGC and Point of Sale Offers, BarTalk is A Location Based Storyboard that talks in Context, brings Millennials together and gives Brands an Opportunity to Weave their Brand Stories in a Delightful Way.

BarTalk is not only a Hyperlocal Network but a Hyper Social Network too!

Q: Being an Ambient Media Player, how are you different from other Ambient Media Players?

Today when Attention is a Scarce Resource, instead of creating ‘Just an Ad Space’ that displays Ads one after the other in a Digital Format, we focused on People, their Social Media Habits and Things that they do while they are Out of Home.

Bringing Digital Out of Home, Mobile & Millennial’s Lifestyle together, we created a Digital Ecosystem and launched for Public on 14th February 2018. Our Network not only is Live but also driven by User Generated Content which accounts for 30% of our Airtime which eliminates concerns like Effectiveness, Eyeballs and Footfalls as the Users themselves are on BarTalk. We are a Hyperlocal Social Network where Advertising Accounts for 25% Airtime.

Q: What is your view about Conventional/Traditional Outdoor Media. Do you think they still lure the Customers and serve Advertisers’ purpose?

There has been a lot of debate lately on effectiveness of Traditional Out of Home. Every Medium has its own Charm. Traditional OOH works well if the campaign objective purpose is Brand Recall, Communication is the Key here.If you look at some of the recent campaigns like Zomato & National Geographic that broke clutter with Innovation, there is no other Medium that could have done made the campaign look so disruptive. OOH will only get better from here once Technology is Integrated into the OOH Landscape, which will add Context to it and make it Hyperlocal from Local.

Q: Is Advertising your Revenue Model or any other way of Revenue Model are you looking at in BarTalk?

We have invested a lot of time on building our Technology, which makes us a Data Driven Company however at this point of time till we scale, advertising is how we generate revenue.

Q: You are a new Player and your Medium seems to be a new one; how are your Target Customers responding to your Media?

Our Network is spread across the Top-Rated Bars of the City which makes our Pitch easy as these are also the places where both clients and agencies visit. Our efforts have also been appreciated by the Industry Peers and some of the Leading Global Agencies have been supporting us which has helped scale and grow our network. However, as we are “Too Digital” in Context of Out of Home. Educating about possibilities of Programmatic, Hyperlocal, API Integrations hasn’t been that easy. But what is exciting here is that some of our recent campaign bookings came from Brand’s Digital Team and not BTL Team.

Also, in the past before BarTalk was introduced, Brands from BFSI, Automobile, E Commerce, Beverage and Consumer Products segment have targeted our Network Bars with Tent Cards and Standees so its not an unfamiliar Touch Point but just altogether a New way of connecting with the Connected Millennials. All our partner Bars have gone Digital by eliminating shabby Static Displays and use BarTalk to Push Communication to their Customers.

Q: Today there are Digital OOH Players available in the Industry? Do you think Digital Integration with Outdoor Media is the Future?

Let us first Define DOOH – Network of Connected Digital Displays that can Reach the Target Audience by Location, Day and Time dynamically.

We all talk about Technology and its implications but What Technology Changed is ‘Our Attention’. Now when you look at the 4 key elements of AIDA Model – Attention is the Primary and Most Important Element. But Today we our living in the World of ATTENTION ECONOMY – Where not only are we addicted to our Smartphones, but also are in a relationship with them. It changed how we Socialize, it changed relationships, Social Media feeds our Ego’s, Communication is tailored to our Interests – Platforms are Monetizing our Attention as we engage in Free Digital Labour. Why? Because it makes us feel special as we get Importance and talks in Context. There maybe an element of Narcissism involved here but today we are in that World where Me is more Important than You.

In Context of Out of Home Media , if we focus on People and how they Connect and Consume Information while they are Out of Home, we can build great connected ecosystems by integrating technology which enables us to connect in context at the right place and at the right time. Digital Out of Home –is a delightful way of connecting and catching attention. Unlike Internet and Mobile Advertising, it gives an opportunity to target audiences in a specific, real world context instead of interrupting a user’s online experience. The only way to distract a connected consumer from a Smartphone is to Integrate its usage with other devices.

Other Countries are already in the Digital Transformation phase and have seen a rapid Growth in DOOH Spends. With New Age Marketers coming in – Data, Context, Content and Engagement will be key factors while evaluating Media Spends.

Q: In how many cities are you currently operating? What are your expansion plans?

We have already signed over 350 Bars and are currently live in Delhi and Gurgaon’s 75+ bestsellers. Our Installations in Mumbai have already started. We are looking at Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune in the next 3-6 Months and building a Connected Community of 3-4 Million Millennials. Focussed on IoT (Internet of Things) and Connected Devices, we will also be releasing our Application soon where we have captured the entire ecosystem, every user interaction to be in sync with our displays, making us the First Movers in this Space. BarTalk will enable – Discovery, Chat and Share within the Community.

Q: Why only Bar? The Kind of audience you target are also cinema goers, coffee outlet visitors, Mall goers etc. Do you not think the very name BarTalk restricts you from exploring other spots where your audience is available?

BarTalk connects exceptionally well with both Audience and Advertisers. “TALK” also defines Dialogue that our Network is Driven on. BarTalk has created an Ecosystem which connects where both Bars and their Customers are in Sync. Our Bars Display Realtime Point of Sale Offers using Our Dashboard and announce Upcoming Gigs, Birthday and Anniversary Greetings and Customers Share their Location Stories like F&B, Selfies and Group Pictures. These Trending Hangout spots are known for Paparazzi and generate a lot of Content which is shared daily across Social Media Channels by Millennials who are considered as the Biggest Content Creators and Users. 56% Millennials Post Photos and Videos that they themselves Create.

If we try to shift this Ecosystem to a Mall or a Multiplex, which are not only spread across huge areas but are very well lit environments with an exorbitant amount of both Retail and Advertising Signage’s, it will not work as efficiently as it does in Bars. We have invested a lot of time creating this Ecosystem where one 4K Connected Display caters to 1500 sq. ft area in a low-lit environment and with High Dwell Time & UGC Integration we get unparalleled Attention.

Considering a major chunk of our Airtime is driven by User Generated Content, hence, as an organization we are focussed on building a Connected Community of Millennials who like to go out, connect, create content and share.

“Yahan Khaane Mein Achha Kya Hai?” Sounds Familiar? Once a customer is inside the Bar no one refers available online portals to see what to order, we usually ask the staff to recommend. On BarTalk, we created a Peer to Peer Recommendation Live Wall – where Users Click and Share what they loved at that specific location. We all relate and engage better with UGC today and this innovation in the Dining Space brought a new trend where Restaurateurs can connect better with their customers and customers feel special as their recommendation is valued enough to make a difference. Even Food Bloggers have taken to it in a big Way: their Recommendations have a new Canvas right where it was created, influencing Purchase.

Q: You are present inside Bars where predominantly alcohol is served. There might be many brands/advertisers which may hesitate to associate their brand in an atmosphere where alcohol is served. How would you overcome that?

I appreciate the fact that you brought this issue up. It’s the Mindset issue which we have only faced  with people who don’t visit bars regularly or at all. There is a difference between a Nightclub & a Bar which is also referred as a Pub & Café. Today, Socialising has become an inescapable phenomenon: to Be Out & Seen is a Lifestyle Today. Wednesday is our New Saturday – On an average a Millennial in the City visits our Network Bars 2-3 times in Week, visiting these Trendy Bars is not about Just Alcohol – We do our meetings, set up dates, catch up with friends and celebrate.Our Network is also part of Yuvraj Singh backed Creators Gurukul – Co Working Space which allows Brands to Target Dual Audience between 12-6 pm and 6pm to 1:00am.

The Country’s Dining Space has evolved and rapidly growing with multiple growth drivers such as Changing Demographics, Urbanization& Younger Consumers aged between 21-35 – The Primary Workforce of the Country with higher disposable incomes and fast paced lives are willing to spend that extra buck for a Good Experience.

According to a recent article in Economic Times, NRAI (National Restaurant Association of India) reported for 2013-16, cafes serving coffee and tea have seen a compounded annual growth rate of 6.9% for standalone and 5.9% for chains during 2013-16. In contrast, pubs, bars, liquor-serving cafes and lounges (PBCL) have witnessed the highest compounded annual growth rate at 25.4%. The report adds that while overall cafe revenues jumped from Rs 5,915 crore to Rs 7,175 crore, the PBCL segment grew from Rs 8,955 crore to Rs 11,545 crore during 2013-16.

We say grabbing a Millennials Attention is a Task. At BarTalk, we spent a lot of time in understanding a Millennials Lifestyle where any New Technology Must Serve a Purpose to be Considered COOL. Therefore, we integrated a Location based Social Network on our Connected Displays – We opened it for Public on Valentines Day without promoting it on any other Medium. We were rather surprised on the number of Interactions – Not only are the Millennials sharing on BarTalk now but Creating for it too. We have a whole bunch of Social Media Influencers – Lifestyle, Fashion and Food Bloggers who want to be seen and featured on BarTalk. Every week we feature Face of The Week and Fashion Blogger of The Week – Not only are they getting popular amongst their peers in the social circle but getting followers too.

So, what we give at BarTalk is not just an AD Space but a Connected Community who share common interests in a Trusted Environment where being Seen is Cool and the Audience is in a relaxed and receptive frame of mind. Being a Connected Digital Network, it opens new doors for Brands to Weave their Brand Story by not only targeting it by Location, Day and Time but by also powering MillennialStories and integrating their social media channels live into our network. We have successfully executed campaigns recently by integrating User Stories using Social Media Channels which works better with Millennials compared to a Normal Advertisement which is why Today we see most brands taking on Influencer Marketing in a big way.

Brands go where People are.  Not only do we have Millennials on BarTalk, but their Attention too. Advertising will happen!

Q: Any message to the Industry as a whole where players like yours are operating or not operating (if at all)?

I think today when you look at Trade, what is Motivating is – Today Some of the Leading Global Agencies like Dentsu Aegis Network are investing heavily on Talent and Infrastructure in this Digital Transformation in the OOH Space. Some of my recent Agency meetings were fantastic compared to back in 2011-12 when we Digitized Radio Cabs, as we get“Too Digital” Dynamics of OOH – Planning, Buying and Execution will bring new challenges. While we go through this transition, the Industry collectively needs to adapt to this change and maybe build Teams preferably with Digital Marketers who can help bridge gap in understanding Dynamics of DOOH. Considering 70% of the OOH Spends are driven by Trade there is a big amount of dependency for Media Owners like us on Agencies for Revenue.

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