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JCDecaux announces launch of 4K screens, yet stands by its billboard inventory as rivals ditch theirs

Out of home agency JCDecaux is showing no signs of retiring its traditional billboard offering, bucking the trend set by the likes of Clear Channel of aspiring toward a digital-only inventory.

The group announced it will be bringing 4K screens to the UK in 2017 at Wednesday’s (18 October) IAB Digital Upfronts, promising high definition OOH advertising initially on its six-sheets and within the mall environment. The company also announced further investment into its digital offering through a partnership with Telefonica, which will see integration of audience behaviour data from 20 million users at 125 geo-fenced locations.

Yet this commitment to tech-led out of home does not mean JCDecaux is giving up on the classic billboard. Its new sales and partnerships director, Ben Maher, told The Drum he was “surprised” by Clear Channel's choice to suddenly renege on 800 of its roadside billboards in the UK.

“It didn’t sound like a particularly controlled announcement…but it does seem clear that their intent is to have less billboard inventory as part of their digital transformation,” he said. “That's not really where we sit. We have a huge amount of traditional or classic out home inventory and we'll continue to support that because there's a huge demand for it in the UK.”

However the new digital initiatives, which are part of JCDecaux’s aim to reach ‘one billion eyeballs by the end of 2017’, have the aim of reaching as many people as possible, rather than targeting narrowly through personalistion. The company wants to provide its clients with ‘brand fame’, rather than the pitfall of targeting too deep and too narrow, like P&G admitted it had done previously.

“I think personalisation in out of home is an interesting point because we are still in a one-to-many rather than a one-to-one medium,” said Maher. “I'm not sure that we need to be in a position where we communicate one-to-one: there's much more to be had by provoking conversation by giving people something to really think about that they’ll then discuss.

“Yes, there are possibilities to track individuals, behaviours, facial types and body types, but that's not necessarily what the public wants. It's quite intrusive. So I think having a broadcast channel, and having something that can be dynamic and rich, is far more important than just reaching one individual.”