WW: Ms. Parkinson, what brings you to Switzerland?
Pru Parkinson: I visit all our subsidiaries regularly. You have to know what's going on in each market. We have certain strategic priorities at Clear Channel. I want to make sure personally that these are being adhered to all over the world.
What are these strategic priorities?
We focus on three things. First, creativity. That's why we've been supporting the Cannes Festival for several years - both on the Côte d'Azur and as a sponsor of the Outdoor category in Switzerland, for example. The second is technology. How can we use the new achievements for outdoor advertising as well? Finally, effectiveness. We want to know why a poster works and how we can increase its impact.
Clear Channel is represented on all continents. Where is your work most exciting?
A very difficult question. Each of our 30 countries has its own challenges. I love visiting all our subsidiaries. That sounds like a platitude, but it is. Latin America is fascinating right now. In Rio, we have the World Cup coming up in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016. There is a lot of momentum for our industry. The U.S. fascinates me because the country is very vast and deals with advertising somewhat differently than Europe. Just think of the mass of oversized billboards, for example in Times Square, where Clear Channel is present with several mega screens. But the large billboards along the highways and roads also offer interesting opportunities.
Clear Channel reports great growth in Asia and Australia. What is happening there?
There are huge changes taking place in Asia at the moment, as we know from all industries. In Singapore, we can use a lot of our latest technologies. China is gigantic because of its size. Several hundred thousand people pass through our megaposters in Shanghai or Beijing every day. On the other hand, we have the problem in China that we sometimes don't even get enough posters from the print shops in the required time to be able to serve all the desired locations for a large campaign. The country is so gigantically large. We are working very hard on our infrastructure at the moment.
What is the difference in the weighting of outdoor in different countries?
A lot of it is historical. France is an interesting market because 12 percent of media budgets there go to out-of-home advertising. In Australia, it's only 3 percent. In France and Italy, it is noticeable that very many luxury brands consider outdoor as their channel. In other countries, legal regulations have to be observed for advertising certain products on a billboard. What all countries have in common is that outdoor is used in a very targeted way, where consumers make their purchasing decisions. This is still our big advantage in the media mix, even though advertising on the Internet is becoming more and more personalized. We are where the customer makes the purchase. And at the same time, we are also at the forefront of new technologies, for example, when people can access further information about products directly from the poster via an app.
Today, people on the move can be reached more and more with advertising on mobile devices. Does this development take a lot of budget away from classic billboard advertising?
The flow of money is heading in the direction of the Internet. This growing trend is clear to see. But media budgets are not increasing. There have to be cutbacks in other channels. But we at Outdoor are not suffering from this development. Out of Home is one of the strongest means of linking the target group to the Internet via the poster. So we need to work on how to make it more sophisticated, and we need to research how such interactions work. The "social - local" link is the future, and this is the direction in which we need to invest, research and develop. When surfing at home or in the office, an advertisement will not trigger the big reactions. But in the market outside and up to the POS it will work. And there our offers can trigger the entry with QR codes and new developments that will surely surprise us soon.
What will digital development in the poster sector bring us in the future?
We could talk about that for hours. On the one hand, we have very targeted advertising with the technical achievements of targeting. On the other hand, we have the billboard, where anyone can happen to pass by it. We are working on being able to use the connection between these two channels better and better. Goods can be ordered directly with a smartphone by photographing the posters. We launched a campaign with Madonna where you could download her latest album in front of the poster. There are no limits to the imagination. Another development will certainly be that we shorten people's time on the road. Entertainment from our installations when they are waiting for the train, stuck in a traffic jam or have to stand in line somewhere. "Filling gaps with desired content will be a rewarding task for us.
Interview: Andreas Panzeri
Jürg Rötheli, CEO Clear Channel Switzerland, on digital innovations
WW: What are Clear Channel's plans for digital in Switzerland?
Jürg Rötheli: We have various initiatives underway. We are already the leading company in the digital sector. At Zurich Airport, five years ago, we were the first with digital installations in Switzerland in the outdoor advertising sector. Currently, we have five products on the market there. For example, the sequence of multiple screens when walking to the gates, which we call ad-e-motion. We have expanded this offering. There are also the screens with the films, the so-called flight information media, on the fourth screen next to the displays at the airport. Here we can offer advertising on a network across the entire airport. Baggage claim media at the baggage belts is also attractive. Then there are our new screens at check-in, which are now moving rather than static, and Wi-Fi sponsorship. All these installations are being continuously expanded. As a zone, the airport is particularly well suited for digital advertising. There is a large volume of passengers at very different times. During the vacation season, different people are on the move than on Monday morning with the commuters. With digital advertising, you reach the target group in an ideal form at the right time.
What's going on away from the airport?
Our goal here is to be able to offer a network of digital advertising spaces throughout Switzerland, at points where most consumers spend time. In other words, in shopping centers and malls. We are constantly developing at these locations. Studies on reaching the consumer show that the purchase decision is very strongly influenced by sales as close as possible to the POS. Sales are said to increase by up to 20 percent. We can pick up the consumer on the street, lead him through the parking lot to the mall and then to the point of sale. Clear Channel can accompany the consumer all the way. That's why such zones as airports and shopping malls or even train stations are best suited for digital advertising.
Where can we expect something completely new?
A pilot project is currently underway with the city of Zurich. This is not just about out-of-home, but about out-of-home outdoor, i.e. on the street. It's about the best locations in the biggest cities. We are in negotiations with the authorities to allow us to either replace our advertising space at existing locations with digital or to identify new areas where we can put digital panels. We believe that Clear Channel can contribute to a modern and good image of a city. This can also lead to the fact that less is perhaps more. Even as a representative of an outdoor advertising company, we have no interest in simply covering the whole of Switzerland with posters. What we want are high-quality advertising spaces that we can market as optimally as possible. Then there really is a triple win-win situation: as a company, we can place six advertisements on a digital advertising space and not just one or two. The city benefits with revenue sharing. The citizen benefits because such a digital advertisement is a qualitatively beautiful, aesthetic and pleasing product and not simply a proliferation of posters cluttered up somewhere. Piccadilly Circus or Times Square is also perceived as a tourist attraction.