JCDecaux will not do battle for business in billboard jungle

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By Ben Flanagan  www.thenational.ae

BEIRUT // JCDecaux, the world’s second-largest outdoor advertising company, says it will not enter the market in Lebanon because the country is too cluttered with billboards.

Lebanon is known for its vibrant outdoor advertising market, with urban Beirut and even remote areas dotted with billboards and video screens. But there is not enough control over the number of outdoor advertising sites, said Jean-Charles Decaux, the co-chief executive of JCDecaux.

“It’s a disaster and we don’t want to operate in that environment,” said Mr Decaux. “I’m not too sure today, in the context of the Lebanon regulations, that we can bring a lot to the market.”

But he did not rule out a future entry into the market, predicting a public backlash against the number of billboards on the Beirut cityscape.

“The population today will not stand such a visual pollution in any country around the world, even in a country like Lebanon where there is a lot of other things to do to clean up the outdoor industry,” Mr Decaux said.

“I strongly believe this country, in five or six years from now, will look radically different. The sector will have to go through a ‘less is more’ policy: less inventory, more quality.”

Mr Decaux was speaking at the Mena Cristal advertising festival in Faraya Mzaar, Lebanon.

He said other markets had an oversupply of outdoor advertising sites, including the company’s home market of France, which diluted revenues for the industry.

“We do in France 50 per cent more revenues than we do in the UK, with four times more billboards,” Mr Decaux said.

JCDecaux has operations in 3,542 cities around the world, and started operating in the Middle East in 2006.

The French company, which is listed on the Euronext Paris exchange, recently won a 10-year contract to sell advertising at the new Al Maktoum International Airport at the heart of the Dubai World Central development.

It holds the right to sell advertising at Dubai International Airport and Sharjah International Airport, and all 26 airports in Saudi Arabia.

The company also operates in Qatar through a joint venture with a local company, but Mr Decaux said it was too early to specify what opportunities the FIFA World Cup in 2022 would bring.

“This is a very successful joint venture that we would like to further develop on behalf of the World Cup,” he said.

Mr Decaux said there was a need for “better regulations” in the industry across the Middle East but he forecast growth in the local “out of home” advertising market.

“A lot of new projects will drive our growth in the future,” he said.

The market research company Magna Global predicts a 7 per cent annual growth for the outdoor advertising sector until 2015.

bflanagan@thenational.ae

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