Moscow Seeks Bids for Billboard Contract

Winner Would Provide Bicycles and Public Toilets to the City

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WASHINGTON ( -- The Moscow government is proceeding with a bid process to install automatic toilets and provide bicycles to the city in exchange for the right to manage outdoor ads outside the historical district.

Outdoor media kingpin Jean-Francois Decaux rocked the Russian advertising community last fall when he proposed putting up $200 million for the rights to control billboards in Moscow. As in Paris and other cities, Mr. Decaux said he would install toilets and provide bicycles as part of the deal.

Vladimir Makarov, chairman of Moscow's Committee for Advertising, Information and Decoration, here in Washington to speak at the International Advertising Association conference, said the competition would include the JCDecaux firm; the Russian operations of two U.S. companies, Clear Channel and News Outdoor (the latter owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.); and even companies with no outdoor experience, such as Gazprom Media. The Moscow government hopes to reduce the number of billboards by about 10% under the new contract, which Mr. Makarov said would run for at least five years.

Weather complications
The competition is "more complicated" than the one in Paris because Moscow, being much further north, doesn't have any bicycle paths, Mr. Makarov said. But "the mayor really likes the idea," he said, so he's instituted new road construction and traffic rules in preparation for the new bicycles. "We're not doing this for Decaux. We're doing this for the competition," he said. But Mr. Makarov didn't rule out that Decaux would end up winning the bid.

Mr. Decaux was scheduled to speak at the IAA meeting but canceled his appearance. Mr. Decaux's brother, Jean-Luc Decaux, co-CEO, replaced him as speaker.

The Moscow government has scheduled a meeting to discuss how to reduce the number of billboards in the city center, and Mr. Makarov said that by the end of the year billboards would be gone from the area around the Kremlin. He added that since News Outdoor pledged to match Decaux's $200 million offer, financing the project will be "no problem" -- especially since the parent of one of the bidders, Gazprom, contributes a big chunk of revenue to Russian coffers.
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