Rah! Rah! Raul!
Madam Mumbai Mayor can take a bow for giving the media industry (not to mention various environmental groups) a fillip by taking on the freeloading culture and sense of entitlement of our politicians and ordering all parties to pay for their abuse of our great outdoors – with their political posters, posturing and popateering.
Outdoor is the spot market mother lode of political advertising – it is heavily community centric and localized, immediate and visually disruptive, and the zero (media buying) cost means that it is used for things as trivial as broadcasting birthday greetings, annual picnic announcements, Pappu, the politician’s son’s pass marks and various other self-congratulatory messages, all of which serve to keep the said parties and their roundup of goon-alike leaders in public memory. Recency theory zindabad!
While several media contacts I have asked have reeled at the challenge of quantifying this section of the informal outdoor market which might be regularized, they pointed out the obvious roadblocks to implementation –
chief among which is the partisanship present in the political leanings of the BMC. However, I would argue that the opportunity is too large for the BMC/MCGM to ignore and, given its laudable drive against haphazard (but thus far legal) hoardings in the city, there is a tide to be seized. Here, in classic WTT style, are a few funny numbers, which might help put this potential bonanza for the public exchequer into perspective.
Barring access to the financial books of our very profitable political parties, let’s use a commensurate and recent parallel example – the Great Ganesh Chaturthi Brand Bonanza:
During this frenzied September festival, the city pours out into the streets, in a celebration that, if you haven’t seen it, can be likened with Carnival in Brazil (except that ours is spread over 10 days…or is it 12? 13? It seems to get longer each year). There are pandals (or stages) where each locality hosts their Ganesh idol for a fixed number of days, and which are visited by thousands of devotees from the area. The pandals are prominently placed, often squarely in the middle of the road, so visibility to any passerby is guaranteed.
Each area is ablaze in a sea of (always inelegant) branding. The market for these hoardings is informal, and the BMC/MCGM claims that it does not extract rents from signage placed within 100m of a pandal, but here are some figures I gleaned from a large local client:
Each pandal has a makeshift gate, which is covered by printed flex material.
>The pandals range from 1000-3500 sq ft
You pay a builder or agent – who supposedly passes the commission to the pandal
>Commission is Rs 32 per sq ft for mounting and rental
Permission from the BMC costs around Rs 3000-5000 per pandal
>So, the rent, per pandal, for 10 days is approx Rs 1.5 lakh
Extrapolate this to 365 days, and you get potential rental revenue of Rs 54 lakh per pandal per year
An average, well-placed hoarding in the city rents for approx Rs 2 lakh a month or Rs 24 lakh for a year (discounts are expected) – so you’ve got to assume that the premium on the pandals won’t last through the year, but even at 50% of the rate it still amounts to a pretty penny. Multiply this with the entirety of the roadfront space in the city and you would have something far in excess of the fanciful 100 billion I’ve quoted. And political parties aren’t the only ones using the Ganesh Chathurti hoardings, so competitive bidding can be expected if the sites were market linked.
This figure also does not include ancillary costs of ‘creative’, production, printing, etc, all of which would flow to the industry, provide jobs, raise tax revenue, etc. In fact, just think of the windfall that would ensue if you regularized the entire sector that subsists to support political parties: advertising agencies, poster makers, graffiti painters, truck and autorickshaw owners (who ferry the rent-a-crowds), makers of dye-stuffs, banners, flags, giant-size cut-outs, stickers, badges, pamphlets, manufacturers of electronic voting machines, audio and video products, bamboo and scaffolding traders, chartered aircraft and helicopter companies, khadi cloth sellers, motor vehicle fuel filling stations, shamiana-pitchers and finally, general labour (crowd fillers (Rs 150 per head), muscle men (Rs 1000 each) and even psephologists (upto Rs 100,000 per positive TV appearance)).
Now, I’m not suggesting that the BMC plaster every square inch of our island with commercial display space, rather, you don’t have to be a heritage activist to augur that the financial burden will prove to be a disincentive for most of the current abusers.
We might even see the advent of the day when the rents force political parties to consider work that actually makes an impact.