For anyone with the slightest interest in poster advertising, the
past few weeks have been rather fun.
Outdoor, of course, has always been a medium that knows how to enjoy
itself (who could forget the gala dinner at this year’s Madrid
But since J. C. Decaux mounted its bid for More Group, the medium’s been
on a roll.
Forget, for the moment, the serious business of a potentially
monopolistic merger. Never has outdoor been more high profile.
For a medium that accounts for little over 5 per cent of adspend, you
can’t open a broadsheet these days without a Decaux/More story leaping
out. The respective PR machines have been in overdrive - and the papers
have lapped it up.
Then there’s been the repartee between the protagonists, More’s chief
executive, Roger Parry, and Decaux’s head, Jean-Francois Decaux. Mr
Parry has, it must be said, scored a few wonderfully deft soundbite
blows. My favourite is Roger’s remark that, if the Decaux takeover goes
through, More Group ’will be priding itself on running the world’s best
The reference is, of course, to Decaux’s pre-eminence in providing
public conveniences, information boards, vending machines and the like -
public services as advertising vehicles. More famously, Decaux competes
with More on providing bus shelters to local authorities - and this is
the crux of the takeover issue.
As the Office of Fair Trading gets ready to decide whether street
furniture should be seen as a single market and whether a merger of More
and Decaux would create an unacceptable monopoly, PR efforts are
reaching fever pitch.
Last week, it emerged that agencies are willing to accept a merged
company as long as investment continues and ad rates are kept under
Advertisers, on the other hand, would prefer to have two companies vying
in the six-sheet market - spurring each other on to continue improving
their stock, ensuring competitive ad rates and offering local
authorities a choice when it comes to handing out their lucrative street
But can it really be argued that if the street furniture medium were to
be controlled by one company, advertisers could be held over a barrel
and forced to pay extortionate rates? Of course not. Street furniture is
but one medium. A highly effective medium, depending on your strategy,
but certainly not one without alternatives.
Yet amid all the press bruhaha over the takeover bid, few have stopped
to consider the impact a single company could have on local authorities
keen to maximise the income from street furniture contracts which will
hopefully be ploughed back into pblic services.
Let’s take a more public-spirited view for once and consider the
implications of a merger on our standards of community services.