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JCDecaux: a French entrepreneurial success-story

JCDecaux’s history and development are first and foremost a great entrepreneurial story. It all began in 1964 when our father, Jean-Claude Decaux, built his first advertising bus shelter in Lyon. His idea was to provide cities and their residents with products and services funded by advertising. The concept, implemented with a strong commitment to the values of innovation, design and operational excellence, would go on to become a global phenomenon and eventually see the company expand into every region of the globe. Today JCDecaux operates in more than 80 countries and is not only No. 1 in outdoor advertising worldwide but also market leader in Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle-East. In a sector undergoing profound change, our international track record and constant innovation are a tribute to our founder, who passed away on 27 May 2016, and an example of how, in barely half a century, a French family company rose to become a global group for which China is now the first-largest contributor of revenue.

In 1955, at 18 years old, our father set out on his own to start his company. In 1964 he invented the advertising bus shelter and the concept of street furniture funded by advertising; JCDecaux was born. In the 1970s, the company began to expand its reach outside of France, launching advertising bus shelters in Belgium, then Portugal, and in the 1980s, JCDecaux set up in other major European countries, including Germany, Spain and the UK, before venturing into the USA in 1994. In 1999, Jean-Claude Decaux decided with his three sons, to acquire Avenir, taking the Group into new countries and broadening the business to include Transport advertising and Billboard. The next step was to put the company on the stock market in 2001. In 2011, the Group became No. 1 in Outdoor Advertising worldwide. Today, JCDecaux is present in more than 80 countries and 4,033 cities with a population of 10,000 and more.

How did we get there ?

By having a genuine dialogue with cities based on the merits of our advertising street furniture concept. Our economic model delivers a real service without impacting local and taxpayer finances and is aimed to enhance the urban landscape. As a result, it was widely welcomed by all sections of society including city authorities and the local population. We successfully grew our business worldwide by keeping pace with the ongoing digital revolution, opening up new and infinite possibilities for our economic model and by tailoring our offer to local environments. In Japan, for instance, where advertising was banned on the public right of way, we spent 5 years laying the groundwork for changes in regulations that allowed us to sign our first contract in June 2004. Today, 19 years later and having developed our footprint by organic growth, contract by contract, we are deeply proud to partner the 41 biggest Japanese cities, including Tokyo, and the largest Japanese public transport companies.

By hiring famous architects and designers: Philippe Starck, Knud Holscher, Patrick Jouin, Martin Szekely, Marc Aurel and Philip Cox, underlining our determination and ability to improve the streetscape and tailor our products to each local environment. Lord Norman Foster, the world-renowned English architect, said: “JCDecaux has been able to develop a happy medium between appropriate design, real profitability and a high level of maintenance, essential to the success of street furniture". By putting design at the heart of its strategy, JCDecaux has positioned itself as a front-runner, attentive to the needs of cities and citizens, for the benefit of advertisers and their brands.

By offering unique “showcases” to advertisers and their brands. By 2050, two thirds of the global population will live in cities and already 17% live in cities with more than 2 million, where they generate nearly 40% of global wealth. In a world where people spend more time on the move, outdoor advertising gives brands the chance to interact with consumers, notably through a connected and creative relationship. This is why JCDecaux offers them its top locations for bespoke campaigns that are increasingly high-quality, innovative and emotionally engaging. Drawing on our expertise and the quality of our street furniture, we reach over 410 million people daily across the globe, offering advertisers and agencies unrivalled geographical coverage and audience.

By putting innovation at the heart of our business model, the city is a landscape of constant creativity. Jean-Claude Decaux said in a 1977 interview: “Outdoor advertising can only continue to thrive if it provides a double service: first, delivering information to the public and, second, delivering the service provided by the shelter or phone booth or any other services that I may not have imagined yet but which my colleagues and competitors may imagine in the future." Since the 1970s, to improve the environment and quality of city life, Jean-Claude Decaux decided to create street furniture that made citizens’ daily lives easier: signage, City Information Panels, Electronic Information Boards and automatic public toilets with full accessibility in cities such as Paris, Berlin and San Francisco. In 2003, Vienna launched the first self-service bike rental scheme. It was followed by Lyon in 2005 and Paris in 2007 with the world’s biggest system, permanently changing the way people move around to create a more human, open and sustainable city. Today, Cyclocity, our dedicated subsidiary, has schemes up and running in 57 cities across 13 countries and we are enhancing the cycling experience with e-VLS self-service electric bikes. JCDecaux’s success in the outdoor advertising market has always been underpinned by an ambitious Research &Development policy. Our portfolio of 1,653 patents and models shows the creativity and capacity for innovation of our integrated teams.

By strengthening our digital ecosystem and increasing the digitisation of our networks we keep pace with the expectations of our customers – cities, airports and transport companies, advertisers and agencies as well as the travelling public. JCDecaux is a pioneer in digital outdoor advertising, running around 60,000 screens worldwide on street furniture, with the creation of the world’s biggest network of digital advertising bus shelters in London and at our New York premium locations, as well as in the transport sector. We have digital displays in New York-JFK, Los Angeles, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Dubai, Shanghai and Singapore airports, in the Vienna and Hong Kong metros and in London, Melbourne and Oslo railway stations. These installations enhance the passenger experience and maximise advertisers’ visibility. 
By positioning the company as a major player in the Smart City. Urban Wi-Fi, small cells, connected mobility and communications are all growth opportunities for JCDecaux, providing real-time, contextualised and targeted advertising. A number of campaigns have had a huge impact, such as Boucheron at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport and Dubai Mall at Dubai airport, where messages change to match the language of the passengers; or British Airways at London Heathrow airport, displaying content tailored to each destination.  The proliferation of social media integration has driven campaign ‘shareability’ such as Jurassic Waterloo, where dinosaurs took over London’s busiest train station (the hashtag #jurassicwaterloo was trending by 8.45am in London and nationally by midday on launch day), or Ghostbusters which delivered 58 million social impressions.  And when the smartphone is thrown into the mix, the user has plenty of time to contact a brand via the ad, ordering for example a product on a Tesco virtual shop under a bus shelter in Seoul (South Korea) or shopping at Carrefour from the Shanghai metro station platform (China).

We are currently developing a “3D” strategy in London (digital, data, delivery) leveraging the digitisation of our prime inventory to show contextualised and geo-local adverts and to boost brand recognition and ultimately sales. This is done through two tools: SmartBrics and SmartContent. SmartBrics offers the possibility to select place, audience and timing data. It is an automatic optimisation platform that campaigns can choose if they wish. Once the data has been selected, SmartContent can modify the output to suit, for example, the weather or time of day. This technology draws on data such as news, social media and airport departures and arrivals, making outdoor advertising a dynamic, powerful and personalised medium.

Finally, the way we buy and sell media has been completely reinvented by the arrival of programmatic marketing. These platforms match sellers and buyers, drawing on ever more advanced and sophisticated data layers, and will soon make it possible to further automate and optimise planning and transactions in the campaigns we run for our clients. 

But none of this would be possible without the men and women of the group, because all these benefits, our operational excellence, financial discipline and long-term vision can only be carried forward by our 13,040 employees who, working in a decentralised management structure that respects their local culture, embrace the values of the Group on which the company’s history and success are based. Every day, they commit themselves with passion to quality, innovation, attention to detail and making it all happen. As the founders' sons, it is our duty to embody these values. This is why we, alongside our managers, inspire in new employees in countries where we are setting up, this special corporate culture that has given JCDecaux its extra dimension. We believe, like Nelson Mandela, that: “Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day-dreaming, but vision with action can change the world.”

© Gilles Dacquin
Chairman of the Executive Board
Co-Chief Executive Officer

Co-Chief Executive Officer