We faced the pandemic together. Together we will rebound.Never has the year ending been so sombre or the new year so uncertain. The virulence of the COVID-19 pandemic led to an economic, social and societal crisis of global proportions and, as a local, mobile medium, we felt the full force of it. The consequences were immediate, but we were able to adapt to the situation by taking an exceptionally proactive approach.
While 2019 was the best year since our founding, 2020 will have been the hardest. When urban audiences began to grow again following the lifting of lockdown, our performance improved rapidly, in both Street Furniture – as we saw in France and the rest of Europe – and Billboard advertising. Transport continues to suffer heavily from the substantial fall in passenger traffic around the world, not only in airports, but also in public transport. At the same time, we have gained valuable insight from the performance of our domestic activities in Mainland China, where audiences have returned to a level close to pre-pandemic figures in the metro and at domestic airports.
Unfortunately, as a result of the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, the months of greater freedom were followed by more stringent restrictions, making any sort of market forecast impossible. However, a number of the projects implemented in 2020 present real hope for the future.
This is the case for several contract wins:a 10-year street furniture advertising contract signed with Manchester – JCDecaux’s first base in the UK – the 15-year contract for street furniture advertising in Bogota (Colombia), the 20-year contract to operate 140 digital clocks in Campinas (Brazil), the renewal and extension, for a period of 20 years, of the contract with Beijing metro (China), and the exclusive 10-year advertising concession at Libreville International Airport (Gabon). We were naturally disappointed by the ending of our advertising contract with the four New York airports, including JFK, but it was no longer financially justifiable, given the current context and the difficulty of planning for the recovery in international air traffic.
At the same time, our duty as entrepreneurs is to plan ahead and prepare for the future through, for example, strategic investments that will enable us to return to growth as soon as the effects of the pandemic are behind us. This is the case with the acquisition in the first-quarter 2020 of a minority shareholding in Clear Media Limited, the undisputed leader in bus shelters across China, as part of a consortium of investors. This asset, in which Clear Channel was formerly the majority stakeholder, gave us the opportunity to pursue our expansion in China, the only major country to post a slightly higher GDP in 2020 than in 2019. Additionally, reflecting our fundamental confidence in the potential of France, the acquisition of Abri Services Média, a Street Furniture specialist based in western France, is part of the same approach: to safeguard the present and prepare for the future.
In the current unprecedented context, 2020 was also a remarkable year for Sustainable Development, with the recognition of our decisive action in the efforts to combat climate change. This is reflected in in our inclusion in the A list of the CDP rankings, along with our maximum triple A score in the “Corporate Social Responsibility” rankings of the MSCI (Morgan Stanley Capital International) ratings agency for the third consecutive year. France has led the way by meeting 100% of its electricity requirements with renewable energies of guaranteed origin. It has also announced that all its activities will be carbon-neutral starting in 2021. The rollout of the Fraîcheur Naturelle (natural cooling) bus shelter, following the Filtreo shelter, furthers our mission to deliver sustainable improvements in urban living.
Also in 2020, we confirmed our ambition of making VIOOH the world’s first global programmatic platform, with a level of performance that is contributing to the accelerated growth of digital revenue, which now accounts for almost 25% of overall revenue. In the key digital and data field, a range of new initiatives enabled us to improve our ability to meet brand expectations. This is the case for our global partnership with S4M, increasing the efficiency of our media and the complementarity between OOH and mobile, or the JCDecaux Mobility Tracker, managed by the Data Department, whose role is to assess the recovery of audience levels and urban mobility, a subject of strategic importance currently, and one which will be even more critical in the post-COVID world. A number of solutions have been implemented locally, such as JCDecaux Impact Drive-to-Store in France, which assesses OOH advertising efficiency not only for brands but also for different countries. A number of major initiatives were put in place, such as the international webinar organised by the UK, France and Germany with Justin Gibbons, who presented his new book P²+C=5: The New Formula for Media Planning post-Covid, a winning formula that shows how marketers and advertisers can harness the power of both the public and private screen to drive advertising success throughout the customer brand funnel. This digital event, which brought together 400 customers in 10 countries, was also an opportunity to launch Pulse 2020, a European barometer exploring changes in behaviour, consumer confidence and media consumption.
Ingenuity and determination must continue to guide us in 2021. By pulling together, we demonstrated our solidarity with people in our different countries by organising campaigns to promote health practices, thanking healthcare workers with free subscriptions to our self-service bikes, designing and installing hand sanitiser dispensers in bus shelters and public toilets in Paris and Los Angeles in record time, continuing to operate and maintain automatic public toilets, and by reopening our billboard workshops as soon as possible to enable advertisers to promote their brands once more on our street furniture and to reach their target audiences.
To quote the French writer Albert Camus, winner of the Nobel prize for literature in 1957, in The Plague: “What's natural is the microbe. All the rest – health, integrity, purity (if you like) – is a product of the human will, of a vigilance that must never falter.” The generations preceding ours, including that of Camus, faced a number of tragedies and were forced to rise to unforeseen challenges. The lesson taught by our forebears, across time and space, is that we carry within us the resources to bounce back. Within the human community, there is an innate intelligence, resilience and energy. In these difficult times, we must hold firm to the belief that these qualities will enable us to build – rather than to endure – the future.
In keeping with our values, we will continue to show solidarity while increasing our determination to ensure that together with advertisers, agencies, cities, airports and transport companies that trust us, we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis better and stronger than before.
© Gilles Dacquin
Chairman of the Executive Board
Co-Chief Executive Officer
Co-Chief Executive Officer