Cannes 2013

Clear Channel Visits Cannes to Push Creativity in Billboards, 'the Last Mass Medium'

Rising Creative Talent Often Focuses on TV and Digital Advertising

Published on .

Clear Channel's radio division recently started an effort to combat lame radio advertising. Now its outdoor group has gone to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to try to spur better billboard ads.

The Clear Channel Outdoor canvas on creativity at Cannes
The Clear Channel Outdoor canvas on creativity at Cannes

Clear Channel Outdoor CEO William Eccleshare is having artists paint a mural outside Le Grand Hotel in Cannes with comments on creativity culled from Twitter. The company is also projecting the mural onto a canvas on the roof of the hotel, which it says is the highest spot on the well-traveled Promenade de la Croisette in Cannes.

"Outdoor is the last mass medium," Mr. Eccleshare said in an interview on a rooftop terrace overlooking the main drag. "It's hard to build a brand online and TV is becoming a more individual medium."

Mr. Eccleshare, in his second festival in Cannes since becoming CEO of the unit of Clear Channel Communications, said the creative side of billboard advertising doesn't get enough attention.

"Billboards are a fantastic canvas," he said, pointing to Apple's large white backgrounds displaying the product prominently and Coca-Cola Co.'s eye-popping red signs with the cursive logo to show how the images build strong connections with consumers. "What artist wouldn't give his teeth to paint in public on a great board?"

Many up-and-coming creatives tend to focus, instead, on TV advertising or digital media.

But smartphones are providing another way for outdoor ads to engage consumers, as applications let viewers to scan codes for vouchers or discounts, or even buy the products right off them, Mr. Eccleshare said. In Belgium, Sweden and Australia, Clear Channel has worked with supermarkets to set up virtual shops at bus stops where consumers can scan products, buy them and arrange delivery to their homes.

"Billboards are becoming a strong driver of traffic to mobile phones," a trend that will increase as mobile wallets become more common, he said.

In the U.K., to promote the June 28 theatrical release of Universal Pictures' "Despicable Me 2," Clear Channel devised a mobile-phone game through digital screens in shopping malls, where users can instruct some of the film's characters to dance, wrestle, play or take other actions.

The increasing use of digital billboards outdoors is also attracting new clients such as perfume makers and luxury-goods makers including Burberry, Mr. Eccleshare said. In 10 years half of his business will probably be digital, he said.

"With digital, the density and intensity -- especially at night -- are getting creative people interested in it," Eccleshare said.

Mr. Eccleshare said his company isn't bidding for the international assets of CBS Outdoor and that the sale would probably go to private equity. Clear Channel will look at outdoor advertiser Cemusa, which is also for sale, he said. Cemusa has contracts with cities such as New York and Boston.

~ Bloomberg News ~

Most Popular