A French connection for Dubai

The outdoor advertising company JCDecaux has won a 10-year contract to sell advertising at the new Al Maktoum International Airport.

JCDecaux will have the exclusive rights to sell advertising at Dubai's new airport.
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The outdoor advertising company JCDecaux has won a 10-year contract to sell advertising at the new Al Maktoum International Airport at the heart of Dubai World Central (DWC).

Described as the region's first "aerotropolis", DWC is a planned residential, commercial and logistics complex.

JCDecaux, based in France and listed on the Euronext Paris exchange, will have exclusive rights to sell advertising at the new transport hub, it said.

DWC hopes Al Maktoum will be the world's largest airport when fully operational, with five runways and an expected passenger capacity of up to 160 million people a year.

The DWC advertising contract was won by JCDecaux's subsidiary JCDecaux Dicon.

"We are pleased to extend the partnership with JCDecaux Dicon to DWC," said Paul Griffiths, the chief executive of Dubai Airports.

In October, JCDecaux said another subsidiary JCDecaux ATA, a joint venture with the Saudi firm ATA, had entered into a 10-year contract for the exclusive advertising concession covering all 26 airports in Saudi Arabia. JCDecaux already holds the rights to sell advertising at the Dubai International Airport and Sharjah International Airport.

Aside from static advertising boards, the company has been installing digital units at airport terminals: during the summer's FIFA World Cup, JCDecaux showcased scores and clips of matches on screens at Dubai International.

In August, JCDecaux said it had signed a five-year advertising deal with HSBC for advertising on jet bridges - the docking connections between aircraft and an airport terminal building - at Dubai and Sharjah airports. The bank said the deal marked its "largest single media investment in the region".

Mark Mullen, the regional head of marketing at HSBC Middle East, said the company would "assess" the benefits of advertising at DWC.

"The UAE is a large and important market for HSBC and the success of its airports make them a strong platform from which to promote the HSBC brand to an international audience," Mr Mullen said. "We will assess DWC as an advertising medium in the same way we would any other."

Outdoor advertising was heavily hit during the recession, largely due to the withdrawal of marketing spending by property developers. According to the Pan Arab Research Centre, spending on outdoor advertising in the UAE was down by 6 per cent in the first six months of the year compared with the same period last year.

Hady Sassine, the regional head of the "out of home" department at the media agency MEC in Dubai, said advertising in airports was hit by the property downturn. But he said he had noticed a subsequent "recovery" in airport advertising: "I'm seeing a lot of advertisements - new clients are there," he said.

Mr Sassine, whose company buys advertising space from JCDecaux and others on behalf of its clients, said the success of the business at Al Maktoum would depend on passenger numbers.

"It's all about the traffic. When we have the numbers … then, based on that, I will propose it to my clients," he said. "It depends on whether the airport is doing well, and what airlines fly there."

Al Maktoum opened for cargo operations earlier this year, with passenger operations originally slated to commence in March next year. Mr Griffiths said this month the launch of the passenger services may be pushed back. "At the moment, we are reviewing the opening date and it looks as if it'll be later in the year," he told Reuters.