PICTURE PERFECT

Costa Rica 2018 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Marco Robert, General Manager of IMC Interamericana Medios de Comunicación, on the importance of articulating a clear philosophy, the industry's biggest weaknesses, and the ideal advertising setup.

Marco Robert
BIOGRAPHY
A graduate of Texas A&M University, Marco Robert returned to his native Costa Rica to begin working for Coca-Cola, where he helped operate its Central America and Caribbean division. He continued his career at RTC in Chicago for 15 years, where he managed the LATAM and Asian region. He co-founded IMC in 2004 in Costa Rica.

How important is the Costa Rican market for your business?

We started the company here, and Costa Rica currently makes up 60% of our business. We have been growing by double digits overall and believe in investing in top-of-the-line technology and materials. We now have six different lines of business and a variety of products, including advertising in airports, shopping centers, digital and poster billboards, spectacles, wallscapes, buses, transit shelters, mobile digital billboards, and much more. We help the brands design and develop innovative and interactive media plans. Regionally, we are also in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Colombia. We were the first company to have a clear philosophy and transparency in price. We are the first to have a price list published every year on our website. One of our main strengths is the strategic locations we have for each of our products. We place our advertising platform in the main impact places with the most modern designs and state-of-the-art technology. We have a unique digital billboard circuit providing many advantages for smaller companies because they do not have to pay for printing, and costs are lower.

How has advertising changed in the digital era?

There has been a major shift from traditional to non-traditional media. According to recent studies, investments by large consumer companies that typically advertise on TV and print media—traditional media—are shifting to digital and out of home. Those are the two fastest-growing areas worldwide. Digital media has been growing by double digits, as has out-of-home media. We used to have 6-7% of the marketing expenditure and now represent close to 15-16% of total investment.

How is this industry regulated in Costa Rica?

The biggest weakness in our industry is the lack of regulation. The industry itself takes on the role of regulator and is working with the chamber of foreign publicity, the local government, and the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT). There is a law and regulation in place, though they do not reflect current market conditions, so the industry and chamber are working with the government to update the law to incorporate new technologies. The speed with which this industry grows is faster than the speed with which it is regulated. There are some regulations in place, though they are not fully enforced. The backbone of the industry is formal companies, though around 30% are informal companies that come and go.

How do you procure the land to set up these advertisements?

The law is clear in that one can only advertise on private land. We sign a lease with private owners and put up the foundation for a billboard and need that contract to get the permit.

Does the demand and supply for billboards match?

Typically, it does; otherwise, we would see a great deal of empty spaces. There is only so much we can put up because the law mandates that ads be 100m apart. The ideal setup is digital and with more than one advertisement in the same space, which is why this is replacing so many static advertisements. It is flexible: we can immediately change the content and have different campaign versions at a time, and there is no pollution in terms of printing and disposing of large ads. Although the initial cost might be higher, the investment is more efficient. It is energy saving and less time consuming, as everything is done remotely via the web.

What alternatives for outdoor advertising are there outside of traditional billboards?

There are many—airports, shopping centers, buses, mobile billboards, wifi advertising, and bus stops, among others. As an additional value for regional brands, we have exposure in shopping centers in all Central America and Colombia and in Costa Rica offer exclusive advertising in shopping centers and the airport.