Thursday, September 13, 2007

JCDecaux offers $200M to clean up Moscow billboards

Advertising Age is reporting that Jean-Fran├žois Decaux, a French advertising exec for the JCDecaux Out Of Home Media Group, is offering the mayor of Moscow $200 million in order to clean up the Russian cities billboards and also reward the city with free toilets and bicycles.

Decaux implemented the program with much success in Paris (and has plans to bring it to Chicago), according to the article: "Mr. Decaux said the free bicycle idea became the "Bike Revolution" in Paris. His company reduced the number of its billboards from 5,000 to 4,000, charged advertisers more for each billboard, and used the extra money to buy 20,000 bicycles. Mr. Decaux said that Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago was in Paris this week and he planned to bring the bike idea to the Windy City."

Advertisers implementing their techniques upon entire cities is not really new. Just two weeks ago I wrote about Clear Channel's new "branded city" popping up in Arizona. Ad techniques on this scale are only going to become more frequent, because the idea of concentrated billboards is a good one in a lot of ways. Reduced ad clutter means a more concentrated message, and Decaux has every right to charge advertisers more as a result. Of course, the danger still remains that citizens could reject the idea if they start to feel like they're iving inside of a giant ad.

Regardless, you've got to admire Decaux's agressiveness. He's making moves towards major cities in Europe and has his eye on America. But whether American cities will welcome him with open arms probably depends on the long term success of his European projects. Either way, he'd have to adjust the idea somewhat for it to cross over to the States. It's hard to imagine free bicycles and free toilets being that big of an incentive in places like Las Vegas and New York City. Europe is just much more walking/public transportation oriented as a whole than America, so bikes go over better as a ploy.

At its basic level this is solid concept. It gives back to the city, it creates buzz ("Hey, why is everyone riding those new bikes?..."), it reduces visual clutter and makes JCDecaux basically the same amount of money for displaying fewer ads. And while advertisers have to empty out more of their wallets, if the more concentrated ads do in fact lead to better numbers then it will be ultimately worth it for them too.

$200 million may be a reasonable price for JCDecaux to pay to more or less control the outdoor ad content for a large city like Moscow, but accurate measurement of the system's overall effectiveness is going to be critical for understanding whether such an approach can work over the long term.

Tags: JCDecaux, outdoor advertising, out-of-home advertising

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