Railtrack has hired former CIA Medianetwork director Kevin Shute to
look at how it can increase outdoor ad revenue, prompting speculation
that it could be planning to take its poster business out of Maiden and
M&A and sell the sites direct to clients.
Shute, who left CIA in January, has been hired on a freelance
consultancy basis. His appointment follows that of Yan Huybrechts,
formerly of MediaVest, who was brought in with a full-time brief to
maximise advertising revenue from Railtrack’s huge property
Railtrack owns more than 4,000 poster sites. The most desirable and
lucrative of these sites are the railside properties, which are sold by
It also has a number of roadside sites, some of which are sold by Maiden
and some by JC Decaux subsidiary Mills & Allen.
Huybrechts said that part of his job was to consider whether the sites
would be best sold direct to clients, or whether new contractors should
be brought in to market them. ’This has to be something we look at as we
start to think about renegotiating the contracts,’ he said.
This would be a terrible blow to Maiden. The Railtrack billboards are
thought to comprise more than 10 per cent of the company’s total stock,
and include some top city-centre locations. Maiden has invested heavily
in the quality and marketing of these sites and demand for them has
risen so that they are often booked up ahead of most other UK poster
But Maiden’s managing director David Pugh seemed relatively unperturbed:
’This business is important to us but we do not think we will lose it,’
he said. ’We have a contract until 2004 and a great working relationship
with Railtrack. We have worked hard to exploit the full potential of its
sites and to come up with new product ideas, and we know this has been
Huybrechts said the contract would not be up for a ’couple of
He also said: ’Railtrack does not necessarily want to get involved in
selling poster sites.’ But he added it was possible another contractor
could come in and buy out the contract.
Nigel Mansell, managing director of outdoor specialist Concord, said:
’Railtrack would not have Yan and Kevin there for no reason. Its
railside sites used to be the Cinderella of the business, but Maiden has
really turned them around and they are now selling about two months
ahead of roadsides. Railtrack is bound to look at them and wonder
whether it could take a bigger chunk.’
In the meantime, Shute will be looking at other potential revenue
He will be selling some supersite posters inside stations, and will also
be considering other projects such as plasma screens within stations and
sponsorship opportunities on departure boards.