Avanti Screenmedia Gets Bluewater

Adrian J Cotterill, Editor-in-Chief

Bluewater is easily Europe’s largest shopping mall, top of the TWA UK rankings and alomg with the Trafford Centre and Lakeside probably one of the most prestigious.

Bluewater has had a chequered history when it comes to digital signage, with a screen system installed well over a year ago by Ashingo, being intermittently on and off – and for most of late last year almost always off as Ashingo went seemingly from one financial crisis to another.

It was always strange when Bluewater initially chose Ashingo for the installation and management of the network over very good and very competitive bids from the likes of Avanti Screenmedia and ScreenFX – both of whom of course had at that time also, extensive Mall operation experience whereas Ashingo had none.

It was ‘deals’ like these, very much in the same way that many people felt that the Instrumental Media Group / TescoTV deal was originally handled that we think has given the industry poor press and left many in the sector with a bad taste in their mouth.

Still, rather than harping on about the past let’s look forward to the future. Bluewater would have almost definitely been courted recently by both Vision Media Group (formerly ScreenFX) and Avanti. Both creditable mall operators with sizable existing networks.

As Vision Media Group operate malls number 2 and 3 on the TWA rankings and (we think) have a better selection of up-market malls, we felt it would have been a better fit for Bluewater to go with them rather than Avanti.

With that in mind then, this is probably a more important win for Avanti than many actually realise – a real ‘jewel’ at the top of Avanti’s Mall network.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed but there was a lot of equipment already installed in Bluewater (installed by Ashingo but almost definitely no longer owned by them) and this may have been purchased.

I expect Avanti would have agreed to pay ‘rent’ on being in the mall – probably something like UK PDS 5,000 – 10,000 month with of course a revenue share – probably 70 / 30 or perhaps 60 / 40 in favour of Bluewater themselves.

Whichever way you spin it, it is good for Avanti and I think incredibly good for the UK industry also. For far too long the incompetence of Ashingo has stopped the UK’s prestigious Mall from being an industry showcase for what can be acheived.

Now what needs to happen is that Vision Media Group with their 20+ Malls and Avanti with their 34 Malls must show the National Advertisers and Media Buyers and Planners what a good ‘community’ proposition Malls are and how great they are for advertising.

If they do this then 2008 could be a good year for both of them. Vision Media Group’s plans to focus purely on its Mall network, to have all the media sales done by Clear Channel (trust us = a fact) though not confirmed by VMG or Clear Channel to date and as documented to rollout a new generation of screens and kiosks in the Malls PLUS what we know Avanti are up to with their Mall network is, let us say, all VERY exciting!!

The key here is that both VMG and Avanti must ‘sell’ the Mall proposition honestly and professionally (there is no reason to doubt that they wouldn’t) to the most important folks in this ecosystem – the media planners and buyers – they must walk away believing that Malls are good for their clients!

Bluewater attracts over 27 million visitors each year making it one of the UK’s busiest shopping destinations. Avanti now has contracts with 34 malls with a combined annual audience of over 433 million consumers.

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