Bleakley zones in on digital retail at Westfield

Tim Bleakley, UK managing director of sales at CBS Outdoor, tells Media Week about his firm's fully digital presence at west London's new £1.6bn shopping mall.

Tim Bleakley, UK managing director of sales at CBS Outdoor,
Tim Bleakley, UK managing director of sales at CBS Outdoor,

Ardent Manchester United fan Tim Bleakley is used to the hype that surrounds his beloved football team and its iconic manager Sir Alex Ferguson. But this week it's Bleakley who's in the hotseat.

Because if you believe the CBS Outdoor sales boss' own hype, shopping in London will be unrecognisable from Thursday, when Australian mall giant Westfield opens its £1.6bn, 46-acre shopping centre in west London.

In preparation, Shepherd's Bush Underground station has been transformed and the new Wood Lane station has been built on the Hammersmith & City line. Alongside the shopping, there will be restaurants, a multiplex cinema, a health and beauty retreat, concierge and valet services, and a gym.

Bleakley's firm won the exclusive contract for the internal advertising sites in February in a deal understood to be worth £100m over eight years, while Ocean Outdoor holds the 10-year £70m contract for the external sites.

Westfield is the first foray into shopping centres in the UK for CBS, whose British arm has traditionally focused on transport-based advertising. The mall has 110 double-sided, high-definition, 57in screens in designer pods, three high-definition landmark screens, 45 six-sheets and seven showcase squares.

Bleakley is confident about Thursday's launch, but admits that "to a certain degree, we're in the hands of the landlord". The launch coincides with the release of the new James Bond film. "What better date to launch the funkiest, most iconic London-based retail experience?" he says.

Bleakley says Westfield is attracting new brands into the outdoor industry, such as Tiffany & Co, Yves Saint Laurent, Mulberry, Samsung and T-Mobile.

According to Bleakley, new companies are being attracted to outdoor as a result of innovation such as CBS's Westfield portfolio and that the dominance of the big four benefits everyone. He says: "Only a large company can spend the money needed for innovation. But everyone benefits because it builds the prestige of the industry."

In addition, Bleakley believes CBS's investment in a fully digital solution fits perfectly with the Westfield brand. "It's a sexy, groovy, upmarket proposition, the likes of which this country hasn't seen before," he says.

Highly focused targeting

Westfield is divided into six zones to allow highly targeted planning: aspirational fashion, the luxury village, high-street fashion and complementary, streetwear and urban chic, a kids' court, and home and lifestyle. Bleakley says the zones will be significant. "Each zone will attract certain types of people and advertisers, and our inventory reflects that," he explains.

Media agencies will be able to plan integrated campaigns with CBS's transport portfolio. Bleakley explains: "Westfield is built into the public transport network. It's very focused and conscious of a modern, high-end and transit-oriented Londoner. We'll own the experience right up to the point of purchase."

Bleakley believes CBS's experience of the Underground has helped it understand Westfield because they are both "captive environments" about consumers on the move, which is "absolutely at the heart" of what CBS does. He says: "Our experience of digital on the Underground shaped our dialogue with Westfield because we understand how to maximise its value for the advertiser."

CBS's digital team Alive, led by Nicky Cheshire, has changed the way the company can sell outdoor media. "Targeting people digitally allows you to change your message, not just by the time of day, but by the mindset of that time of day," says Bleakley. "If you've gone to Westfield to treat yourself to a luxury item, you will have a different mindset than if you have gone to buy things for your home."

CBS's digital division has grown from a "glint in Cheshire's eye" to become a significant part of its business. Cheshire's team has expanded from six to 20 people in the past 18 months and Bleakley credits her as the "creative drive" behind it.

However, the growth in the digital team has prompted departures from other departments, such as the team led by Peter Charlton, national sales director, and the marketing department.

Chasing growth

Bleakley says the changes were made to get the most out of the company. "You have to chase the growth," he says. "You have to make sure your team has the best chance of growth. And that's what we've done."

The savings have been spent on research, technology and personnel. Most recently, Lee Cutter joined CBS in the newly created role of head of retail sales, as part of the Alive team.

Bleakley won't be drawn on whether CBS is looking to expand further into retail. The company is believed to have spent £4.8m on Westfield and £72m on refurbishment of the Underground advertising inventory, and it remains to be seen how profitable the new additions to the company's portfolio will be.

"From a sales and marketing point of view, the first thing we have to do is make Westfield work," he says. "There's no point being first to market and failing. We'd rather be second to market and succeed, because with success comes the reputation for delivering."

And that's something Bleakley's hero Alex Ferguson would undoubtedly concur with.

CV
2008: UK managing director, sales and marketing, CBS Outdoor
2004: Broadcast sales director, Emap advertising
2001: Managing director, TWG Impact, Wireless Group Sales House
1999: Sales director, TalkSport/Talk Radio
1997: Sales controller, CLT UK radio sales/Talk Radio
1996: Account director, ITV (television sales and marketing services)
1989: Sales executive - account manager, Ulster Television and TSMS

Family: Married to Claridge (Clare). Three children - George, Jack and Ella
Car: Streetcar.co.uk
Desert island media: Roberts Sports shortwave transistor radio
Football Team: Manchester United

BLEAKLEY ON ...

Westfield It's absolutely enormous - it's bigger than the BBC over there. It's almost as though someone's taken a captive environment, beamed it down from another planet and planted it in Shepherd's Bush.

Specialists They are a positive and not a negative thing for the outdoor industry. They are a force for good and everybody benefits from them. It's great to have their knowledge of the medium and their help in promoting the industry.

Outdoor's potential Outdoor is in a really exciting place, but the medium is at a crossroads. At the moment, outdoor takes 10% of the advertising market, but the medium deserves to take a 20% share. We're halfway there. If the money follows the audiences, and we all believe that, then agencies should expand beyond newspapers and TV.

London 2012 The sponsors cannot advertise inside the stadium and so they will look to outdoor. This will mean the out-of-home industry will put investment into its products. London 2012 will be the first car-free Olympics, meaning transport advertising will be key.

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