This is neither an ode to out-of-home nor a diatribe against everything else. Don’t get me wrong. There is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ media, unless you have a poor idea. It’s just hard to ignore the feeling of seeing your work out there, looming larger than your house.
Look Mum, I made that!
Since there was no social media, big data or retargeting ads in Ancient Egypt, we can agree that it’s fair to call outdoor the first media. Some wooden boards, paint, a skilled hieroglypher, and boom, your ad was successfully aired. One goal. The more interesting, the better. That simple concept hasn’t changed in five thousand years.
But let’s not travel too far back in time. Let me bring your focus back to one of the latest and more brilliant examples in this category: the Adidas Liquid Billboard. Made here, in our neighbourhood. A piece of work that put the Emirates at the centre of the global creative conversation for more than a year, brought to us by our dear colleagues at Havas Middle East.
Many people told me “I don’t like it” as soon as it was launched in July 2021. I silently thought, ‘This is going to win everything.’ And so it did. I am not only talking about creativity awards. It won the attention of people and industry, the respect of other brands and the hearts of specialised media. “But it’s just a billboard filled with water,” they said. Well, exactly. That itself is the magic. Simple things are the work of geniuses, and most of the time brilliant solutions are hiding in plain sight. When you need to catch a message while driving at 120km/h, riding the metro or jogging at the beach, simplicity is key. The Liquid Billboard took billboards to another level. To a higher level. An iconic level, if you want, because here we are still talking about it.
One more example – I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t mention it – is the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Highway Gallery, an ambitious project that we launched a few years ago here at TBWA\RAAD. It made billboards innovative again, becoming the most successful campaign in the history of both the agency and Louvre Abu Dhabi. The museum’s most important art pieces were reproduced as colossal billboards, and then placed along more than 120 kilometres of the highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Each artwork was equipped with a solar-powered FM transmitter that synced with the country’s top three radio frequencies. When approaching each masterpiece, drivers and passengers triggered the museum audio guide and experienced the collection like never before: right outside their windows and through their car speakers.
Until this line, we have only spoken about billboards. I mean actual billboards. They might be powered up with radio jams or turned into a pool, but still, they are billboards. Besides them, the out-of-home playbook has many other possibilities. Endless possibilities, perhaps.
On any other media you can get away with being book-smart, but when it comes to out-of-home, the focus is squarely on whether you’re being street-smart. Think Fearless Girl. Nike Air Max Graffiti Store. The Hidden Flag. The Oreo Vault. Guns with History. Rivers of Light. Invisible Drive. Andes Teleporter. We could hang out all day referencing campaigns left and right, each one more versatile than the last. We could continue naming hundreds and hundreds of ideas, because out there, in the streets – and in the squares, buildings, villages, jungles and deserts and even at the North Pole – everything counts. Graffiti, statues, clothing, drone shows, marching holograms, ant demonstrations, melting ice figures and rainbow projections, posters filled with one trillion dollars of Zimbabwean currency…
Just get the proper municipality approvals and you’re in. It’s all fair game.
In all those cases, media and idea became one. They modified people’s routine path across open spaces which had hitherto been monotonous; they interrupted the pattern of those who were simply drifting in a crowded landscape, barely aware of the millions of messages choking their daily commute.
Do you remember the billboards that you just saw today, a few minutes ago, on your way to work?
That’s my point.