Loving a barbarian who turns cuddly

Ramsey Naja is chief creative officer at JWT MEA

“I think that media can often be the modern day equivalent of Attila the Hun. In this shape, indeed, at its worst, media looks at everything as a territory to conquer and pillage rather than a canvas, and seeks to exploit it as such to the full, regardless of the damage this may cause.In fact, years ago, when ambient started making its way regularly into creative briefs, a landmark paper raised the alarm by describing it as having the potential to become pollution, and therefore risk damaging the very brands it advertises.

For many of us in this part of the world, this was hilarious: with a vastly unregulated environment in many of our countries, even our standard circuits of billboards already had the subtlety of a Mongol invasion.

In many ways, it is creative thinking that is to blame: the desire to catch consumers around the clock and at every possible point of contact, has meant that creativity spread to the use of media – one of the most exciting award categories for agencies, and probably the most depressing one for conservation societies. In the context of an unregulated, if not downright chaotic, infrastructure, this is abuse waiting to happen, visual pollution ready to set in and brand communication at risk of having the wrong type of association.

Luckily, media companies often have a better sense of responsibility than is accounted for. Now this could be the by-product of the need to steer away from controversy and architectural heritage activists, but it does create massive opportunities for the kind of CSR initiatives that our cities, old ones in particular, cry out for. We have all grown accustomed to seeing brand names and logos stuck next to site names that we hold dear, be it the public garden where we got mugged for the first time or the cinema where we got our first slap. When these logos act as defenses against bulldozers, as rallying cries for urban beautifying projects, or as infrastructure providers for rural areas, this can only be a good thing. Everyone can love a barbarian that turns cuddly.”

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