In Conversation: Martin Sabbagh On What’s Next For JCDecaux

It was early in July this year, that JCDecaux, along with its Emirati partner DXB Media Advertising, won a new street furniture contract in Dubai for 10 years, following a competitive tender by Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

In the wake of this win, the out of home (OOH) advertising company has been working towards providing the best solution and offerings to RTA through innovation and new designs.

Speaking to The Arabian Marketer, Martin Sabbagh, CEO of JCDecaux Middle East explained how the agency approached the mandate with a marketing perspective. “We will be operating the advertising lamp posts on Jumeriah Beach Road. On this 15 km stretch, we will be operating 418 lampposts with a complete new approach in terms of marketing. We have changed the products and installed new advertising lamp posts with new design and new lighting solutions. From a marketing standpoint, its going to be much brighter with higher uniformity of the artwork which is important for luxury brands.”

Audience Based Network

The e-village , which is an outright smart city product will be set up in some of Dubai’s most iconic locations including Marina Promenade and Burj-al-Arab. For this first very strategic partnership with RTA, JCDecaux also leveraged the expertise of its research and development teams to develop advertising lamp posts with a new design that fits perfectly into the urban environment.

“We split the 50km of street to different clusters which address different audiences. We have tried to understand the audience and propose that audience to the relevant advertiser. We are positioning this new advertising solution, which has rich frequency and coverage network. For advertisers it is going to be an efficient product in terms of return on investment,” informed Mr Sabbagh.

Each model was submitted to a life cycle assessment to measure the environmental impacts of its design and production reducing its energy consumption by almost 39 percent staying true to the Group’s policies of sustainable and eco-friendly advertising.

“For RTA the benefit is that this new lighting solution also reduces the electricity consumption by 40 percent. Whats interesting is that we completely change the way the assets are going to be presented in the market. As of now, Dubai is mainly driven by locations and relationship between buyers and sellers. We have added a different approach where the buyer will spend a lot of time studying the audience and not going to sell an out of home location but going to sell an audience to the brands,” elaborated Mr Sabbagh.

Operation Succeeds Over Location

For years, for any OOH advertising agency, location is the key, Mr Sabbagh explains how this is now changing to the people who are operating the location. “We have seen that the requirements of the landlord are changing as well and people are paying more attention to the quality of the people operating the project.”

“Location is key for sure but it is also how you operate the location. There are several studies and research that is involved in the entire process and people taking decision on the corporate or government side understand this importance, which is driving this change.

Calling Dubai as one of the most advanced markets in the region for OOH, Mr Sabbagh says that the industry is still catching up to global markets with rapid innovations. “Dubai, no doubt, stands ahead in the region as an advanced market. However, there is still a delay in innovation and technology catching up in the region when compared to other global markets like China, USA, France or Germany. This also means more opportunities that we can deliver to the brands to talk to the audience in the region,” he said.

Mr Sabbagh believes that while there are opportunities, there are challenges too. “ Surprisingly, innovation is a key pillar of growth strategies in the region but we still see the reluctance of people to embrace change and innovation. Sometimes in our industry, there have been other forces trying to prevent change and innovation to happen. This doesn’t harm the business but it does harm our capacity as an industry to deliver much more value to the brands.”

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