Jeremy Male, the fiercely competitive chief executive of JCDecaux, UK and Northern Europe, is one of the leading figureheads of the outdoor industry, known for his hard business skills, smart suits and love of rugby and swimming.
Although he is based at the Decaux building in Paddington, he spends much of his time roving over JCDecaux's global footprint.
One out-of-home contemporary says Male has "the respect of pretty much all the media owners and agencies", not to mention being "the best-dressed man in outdoor, a style guru". But another industry player explains that it's not just Male's sharp tailoring that catches the eye, commenting: "JCDecaux is a very well run organisation. And it's a reflection of Jeremy that every part of that company works."
Male, who worked at TDI Advertising, the former incarnation of CBS Outdoor, before joining JCDecaux in 2000, is a firm advocate of the media industry. "It's the pace of change in media and the smart people," he explains. "If you put those two factors together, it creates an exciting environment to work in."
This year, which marks 10 years since JCDecaux stepped up its presence in the UK following the buyout of Havas Media's outdoor business in 1999, is certainly an invigorating time to be working at the French-founded outdoor media owner.
Earlier this month, the company launched JCDecaux London, a new division focusing on airport and roadside sites, which aims to remedy the fact that London has traditionally been undersold by the out-of-home industry, even though outdoor has its best audiences in the capital.
The six-strong team, led by David Lambert, is now racing to convey this message to clients and planners ahead of the huge opportunities in store through the London Olympics 2012. Male says the new division will not affect JCDecaux Airport's long-term international business, but will look to take share from other UK media.
And, in January, JCDecaux announced its investment in its state-of-the-art Fast Forward printing hub. The hub knocks 24 hours off campaigns' printing time, enabling JCDecaux to turn them around between Friday and Monday, and so take last-minute ad spend that might have traditionally gone to press.
Leading the way
In the six weeks before Christmas, for example, JCDecaux led the Tesco Promotional Network initiative - the largest six-sheet campaign to date, using 8,000 Decaux and Clear Channel sites, where multiple creatives were changed every Wednesday.
As a result, Male is bullish about the strength of outdoor's proposition within the media industry, citing the fact that "even last year outdoor outperformed the market". However, he is less optimistic for other media. He says: "It is arguable that TV and press advertising may never recover."
Furthermore, Male believes JCDecaux has "led investment in the industry" over the past 10 years. "Imitation is the best form of flattery," he says. "When JCDecaux's competitors copy what we have done and brand it the same, I don't have a problem with it. When you are a leader in a market, you expect to be followed."
JCDecaux was listed on the French Stock Exchange in 2000 and Male says the business is perceived as "international, open and transparent" now that it is required to report regularly as a public company.
Earlier this month, JCDecaux's annual report showed that the UK operation had felt the effect of the economic slowdown - organic growth was down 4.7%. But the company's overall operating margin was down only 1% and the share of revenue generated by its operations in emerging markets is expanding.
So, although JCDecaux is looking at increasing its presence in markets in the Middle East, it is not actively pursuing businesses in the UK.
"This year will be about maximising the value from our current resources," Male predicts. But this does not mean JCDecaux will not continue to invest in the UK. Instead, Male says the company will take a "selective" approach.
The day Media Week met Male, JCDecaux had just installed a new roadside superstructure tower on the A40, with a second superstructure site on the M3 due to be unveiled imminently. Together with other large-format sites on the M4 and A3, the towers will target high-density traffic into London.
In addition, JCDecaux is in the early stages of a glitzy marketing campaign. It is continuing the roll-out of its high-definition glueless posters. And it will invest in more Innovate products, with the launch of JCDecaux Airport Innovate last month set to expand the special-build sites to its airport portfolio.
However, one year since the opening of Heathrow Terminal 5, Male says JCDecaux is not interested in expanding its airports inventory to the UK regions because they wouldn't fit with the company's wider portfolio. He explains: "Our airport business relies on a global footprint - we have LAX, JFK, Heathrow, Paris, Frankfurt, Shanghai and Hong Kong."
Male says his strategy for this year will be about making the most of the company's existing portfolio. "It's better to assume that 2009 will be difficult and 2010 could be hard, and then make the decisions to ensure the business survives," he says.
"Then, if we're pleasantly surprised, that's great. Outdoor is in a strong position, but we can't take anything for granted."
2000: Chief executive, UK & Northern Europe, JCDecaux
1996: Chief executive, Europe CBS Outdoor (formerly TDI Advertising)
1994: UK managing director CBS Outdoor
1987: European managing director Tchibo Coffee International
Home: Oxshott and Heathrow
Family: Married to Jane with two children - AJ, seven, and Sophie, five
Most likely to be found on Sunday: Coaching under-7s at Cobham RFC
Enjoys: Running, swimming and tennis
Desert island media: FT.com, Sunday Times, BlackBerry
Male on ...
Digital OOH Digital suits captive environments where you have a long dwell time and you don't have the planning constraints of the roadside. Digital will play the most significant part in airports, the underground and retail.
Outdoor companies pulling sites Markets have a way of cutting out excess supply. We will see some reduction in the OOH industry. It's self-regulating and, on balance, the market will be stronger.
The media market The conditions are affecting every sector. TV is having a bad time, radio has fallen off a cliff and national and regional press continue to have structural difficulties and declining readership.
The flexibility of outdoor Outdoor is known as strong for branding and product launches, but we need to get the message out that OOH is more flexible than that. If you want to promote a sale at the weekend, you can have a campaign that goes up on the Wednesday.
Transparency Outdoor is dominated by international businesses who comply with all the relevant legislation. The industry has never been more transparent.