Has JCDecaux chosen the wrong time to abandon its trade body?

JCDecaux's withdrawal from the Outdoor Media Centre is a surprising turn of events, writes the Posterscope chief executive Annie Rickard.

Annie Rickard
Annie Rickard

We believe that it is pretty much universally acknowledged that the OMC of recent years hasn’t performed as well as it could and as well as other trade bodies have.

Last week, a major market player declined to join the others in their rapidly evolving plans to rebuild their trade body for the future.

It’s a surprising turn of events for many reasons.

Outdoor media is currently in good shape, so individual media owners could feasibly do their own thing, worry about their own bottom lines and the constituent parts could, by default, add up to a healthy whole.

However, it is indisputable that they would benefit more from having a successful trade body to make the medium more accessible to its users.

Audience currency Route would never have gained respect if players had taken a parochial rather than industry view.

It should be acknowledged that JCDecaux, alongside the other investors, played a major part in Route’s creation and now has a global gold standard in out of home audience measurement they can be proud of.

Maybe it’s not a problem that JCDecaux isn’t involved. After all, other media trade bodies have thrived without apparently important members. Channel 5 isn’t part of commercial TV marketing body Thinkbox and it hasn’t exactly held Thinkbox or its remaining members back.

It’s possible that, in the short term, like someone subtly not pulling their weight in a tug of war team, the absent member benefits from the efforts of others.

But it’s tough to keep that up in the long term and the thought that this might be a rationale for a temporary absence is unpalatable?

So what’s the future for OMC? Will it fade without one of the major industry players or will the remaining constituent parts rally and unite to prove their competitor wrong?

It’s important to realise that these are multi-billion dollar businesses where the (relatively small) investment in getting it right will be paid back many hundreds of times over if it is done properly. The sums required to run the OMC properly are pretty insignificant compared to the potential upside, which makes JCDecaux’s decision all the more puzzling.

Posterscope believes that this turn of events presents a unifying opportunity that the talented remaining members of the OMC will not want to pass up.

There are few shrinking violets in the outdoor business so basic human nature will take over and pugnacity will kick in. We are confident that an enlarged constituency of members drawn from the 50 media owners that make up the medium will unite to go on the offensive.

They will want to create initiatives and messaging that will, in the nicest way possible, force their estranged partner to knock at their door and ask to be readmitted to a party that it appears to have left prematurely.

Whether it will be welcomed with open arms once the others have taken the strain for a year or two will be up to the future munificence of the other members.