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Advertising on the tube - Let’s hear it for media power

Pete Davis
By Pete Davis  //  Tue 21st February 2012

I was considering the CBS / TfL affair, the massive London Underground advertising contract that’s back on track after a major derailment…

There aren’t many instances I can think of when media businesses have been able to flex their muscles and succeed against advertisers or estate owners. Quite often they are simply not in a strong enough position to do so. So it was refreshing, recently, to see CBS Outdoor bite back at Transport for London (TfL) and seemingly win over its contract for handling ad sales for the London Underground.

This is a massive outdoor advertising contract – believed to be the biggest in the world and worth £1 billion in revenue when it kicked off in 2006. It was secured by CBS off the back of the perceived development of their product into cross-track projection and digital screens, which was set to make both parties a lot of money.

There had been gossip and speculation over the contract for some time, but nothing came to light until April last year, when CBS suddenly dropped the bombshell that it was claiming damages from TfL. Why? Because of long and growing delays in the Tube’s construction projects, which were derailing CBS’s plans to complete its product development on time and on budget.

Delays on the Tube are nothing new, but CBS had clearly had enough of waiting for the money train. So much so, in fact, that in August it stunned everyone in media by saying it was actually going to cancel the contract – incredible!

Now you may think that slamming down the emergency handle on such a massive contract that involved a huge amount of product development work was more than a little misguided, perhaps even crazy. In fact, it was a stroke of genius – and it was all about the timing.

Think about it. This year is going to be one of the biggest for media advertising in the UK, with London, in particular, offering huge opportunities for outdoor, thanks to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. The idea of TfL losing not only a major revenue generator at this critical time, but also an advertising development partner is simply unthinkable. Crashing the contract would have been a nightmare for both parties, but the recent announcement that the contract is back on suggests, perhaps, that TfL needed that deal to stay on track the most.

So well done CBS on calling TfL’s bluff and making a stand on the world’s biggest outdoor contract.

Have a look at some of the marketing opportunities CBS have available on – CBS advertising ideas
CBS 4 sheet advertising on the london underground, Pete Davis
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