JC Decaux executives outline plans for programmatic, audience-based out-of-home category growth

Six months on from completion of its acquisition of APN, the group outlines how it's striving to step-change the out-of-home category and its tech and data investments

JC Decaux has its sights set on dominating and growing Australia’s out-of-home media market and will use data and audience-based programmatic capability, as well as its broader array of OOH assets, to do it, its CEO says.

It’s been six months since the European-based company completed its $1.12bn acquisition of Australia’s APN Outdoor Group. The agreement was announced just days after rival local player, oOh!Media, snapped up Adshel for $570 million. The respective deals saw the local market’s top-tier OOH media providers consolidate from four to two, both with their sights set on growing their footprint nationally.

“Effectively, the top four businesses consolidated into two, and we enjoy about 70 per cent of the marketshare locally between us,” JC Decaux CEO, Steve O’ Connor, said bullishly during a media event this week. “We expected with the benefits that flow from that, including bigger investment and the scale that we can provide advertisers, there should be a substantial step-change in out-of-home, and therefore more marketshare we will enjoy.”

O’Connor pointed out Australia was JC Decaux’s seventh-largest market globally. A/NZ revenues sit at about $500 million.

“We are sophisticated, big and moving into this market in a very significant way. Our understanding of how to use data, automation investment, and with the way we take a different view than just selling formats and work to ensure advertising campaigns that work… we really do hope to step-change Australia’s out-of-home industry,” he said.

With structural integration of the two businesses complete and teams under one roof, the next step is integrating systems. O’Connor noted there “weren’t many redundancies” as both companies were poised for growth.

As noted by O’Connor, JCD and APN had operated largely in complementary areas, meaning the combined group has a footprint across most OOH formats, from JCD’s street furniture heartland through to transit, billboards, large format, rail and airports. The focus now is introducing new products and marketing initiatives, he said.

JC Decaux CMO, Essie Wake, told CMO integration of the marketing team had been completed by February, and she’s hiring 11 new staff members on top of the existing team to better cover its wider product and asset offering. Wake was announced as group CMO in November, having spent the past eight years with the JC Decaux.

Earlier this year, JC Decaux’s combined marketing teams unveiled a new brand campaign with the tagline, ‘intelligence by design’. Wake said this reflected design intelligence, as well as how the group is striving to leverage data to build a more audience-based approach to out-of-home. She added 16 data analysts sit in her marketing team today.

Data-driven emphasis

JC Decaux’s data-based effort involves a number of proprietary research and data platforms, Wake explained. These include ‘Pigeon Project’, an online consumer community for research across street furniture assets; ‘Orbit’, created in partnership with RDA and evolving around geospatial mapping complemented by data sets like Nielsen, Census and household expenditure data; and ‘Codex’, a behavioural analysis tool. All of these are now being extended across the wider product offering.

Off the back of JC Decaux’s recent T3 Qantas Domestic Airport contract win, Wake said it’s also rolling out a new global audience measurement system for airports and bringing in fresh data sources to the mix, noting current industry standard measurements don’t inadequately measure airport audiences.

More widely, the group is looking to support a programmatic way of buying OOH, whatever the asset, based on audiences. To do that, JC Decaux is pushing two proprietary technology platforms: VIOOH, its media planning and trading platform; and Smart Content, a data-led creative tool for dynamically updating OOH content based on trigger-based rules and using real-time data sources.

“With all these data sets, the challenge becomes how to make these scalable and available to the wider market,” JC Decaux chief commercial officer, Max Eburne, commented. “We believe it’s through platforms that we will bring the scale and speed to market.”

VIOOH, for example, allows JC Decaux to move from selling panels to selling audiences, he said, and the team is tapping existing audience data sets to achieve this. Eburne said it’s also working on audience-driven pricing models, plus new forms of OOH measurement to tackle industry concerns around digital audience measurement and share of voice to “drive sophistication of the sell of the billboard category”.

“In the mid to longer-term, this has been built to allow us to go into automation and finally trade out-of-home in a truly programmatic manner,” Eburne said.  

O’Connor agreed, however, that shifting OOH to programmatic would be “one step at a time”, noting the main benefit of outdoor is its broad reach and ability to build brands quickly.

“It’s a one-to-many medium, but the data helps us qualify that audience and be more precise. To sell a single location is not what we’re interested in, but we can scale that data insight across more locations,” he said.

“We can actually guarantee impressions and manage delivery of an audience across a week or set period, dialling up and down in peak moments, so we’re elevating reach for a specific audience target for an advertise,” Wake added.

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