CBS’s Outdoor Ads Prove Old Media Still Works

CBS Billboards

While many new media advocates say that the age of the billboard is over, CBS Corp’s outdoor-ad business has proved them wrong. By taking an approach that includes billboards, online video, social marketing and television, the network has developed a strategy that has the unit poised to be publically traded on Wall Street.

Outdoor spending has increased. Although digital and social have taken over a lot of advertising, spending on outdoor ads has increased by 4.4 percent in the U.S. during the last year. During the same time, other traditional media like print and radio ads shrank. CBS Outdoor Americas has been at the forefront of this trend.

Jeremy Male, the chief executive of the unit, noted in an interview that billboard ads aren’t “skippable” like other forms of old media. DVRs help TV viewers bypass commercials, but there’s no skipping past a billboard ad. With increased commute times, there’s even more of an opportunity for the news about a new show or episode to sink in with the target audience.

Trying to get more ad dollars from other media is one of the major challenges facing Mr. Male. The 56-year-old industry veteran has spent 13 years as a senior executive at JCDecaux Group, which is another major player in outdoor advertising. Billboards and other outdoor ad displays draw only $4.4 billion in ad spending, which is small when compared with the $74 billion spent on TV spots last year.

Billboard expansion is a priority. Mr. Male is making an expansion into digital billboards a priority. This medium can show multiple ads over a single day. CBS has 400 digitized displays, which accounts for only about 1.5 percent of its billboards. Mr. Male said that increasing the proportion will boost revenue growth from its current rate of three percent in the U.S. last year, according to CBS’s corporate filings.

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