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After Taking a Pandemic Hit, Billboard Ad Companies See Signs of Hope

Watchfire Signs

The virus pummeled sales of ads on outdoor and transit displays, and a second wave could hamper a recovery. But executives believe the worst may be over for their business.

Jeremy Male is an executive in a branch of the advertising business — billboards — that took a huge hit in the spring. So he was heartened by what he saw this week on his commute from Greenwich, Conn., to his office in Manhattan.

Through the windows of the Metro North train and on his walk from Grand Central Terminal to the Chrysler Building, Mr. Male saw ads, ads, ads.

He is the chief executive of Outfront Media, a company that sells space on more than 500,000 billboards and other platforms in North America, including the sides of buses and the interiors of subway cars. And like other companies that specialize in so-called out-of-home display ads, Outfront Media has been hurt by the pandemic.

In an earnings report on Wednesday, Mr. Male said Outfront Media’s overall revenue for the second quarter of 2020, a three-month period of pandemic-related lockdowns across the United States, had declined nearly 50 percent from a year earlier.

It was a similar story for Clear Channel Outdoor, which sells space in 31 countries. On Friday the company said its overall revenue fell nearly 55 percent during the same period. It was even worse for the advertising firm JCDecaux, which has more than one million promotional panels worldwide. Its advertising revenue sank nearly 66 percent.

Before worldwide lockdowns went into effect, out-of-home advertising was embracing digital innovation and growing faster than many other parts of the industry. But when the virus hit, budget-strapped companies scaled back how much they spent on marketing in general — and they were especially wary of buying ad space in shopping centers and along travel routes that fewer people were around to see.

Source: New York Times

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