Return of the icons

Let’s just sit back and enjoy the overstated beauty of being big and bold, says The MediaVantage’s Manoj Khimji


I’ll hold my hand up and admit to writing for this OOH guide in years gone by on the latest trends around the world in OOH media.

From the advent of programmatic DOOH, to layering anonymised mobile data with OOH sites, to footfall and even eyeball tracking – I’ve heralded the influence of technology and its impact on OOH media.

What I’ve overlooked in this whole endeavour though, is that the beauty of outdoor media is in its very existence.

Big, bold, and dominating. As cities emptied out their people (and the animals took over) during the pandemic in 2020, we became so obsessed with the bottom of the funnel that we failed to realise that brands were still using large format OOH to communicate; not to the footfall that was at the site location, but to the eyeballs that were fixed to the PR and amplification of these sites.

Campaign Middle East will be hosting its monthly Breakfast Briefing on the Out of Home industry on 10th November at the Grand Plaza Mövenpick, Media City, Dubai. To find out more click here.


Since then, it’s very much been a case of a return to the icons. Times Square in New York, Piccadilly Circus in London, Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo and Young- Dundas in Toronto – just some of the most recognised and sought after iconic billboards around the world – have all continued to thrive in this new age of technology-driven media.

Interestingly, the key advancements affecting these sites have been trends which have simply banked on their iconic nature, namely 3D creative executions and livestreaming capabilities for major global events.

Only if you had spent the past 12 months under a rock could you have avoided seeing 3D ads of larger-than-life sneakers or animals pouring out of the corner of a building from a giant billboard.

Similarly, livestreaming your event on global landmarks like the Nasdaq Building in Times Square or Piccadilly Lights in London, effectively guarantees you major worldwide status and garners far more value in earned media than the paid media cost of that site.

So kudos to the OOH site owners and the brands for recognising the capabilities of the media and using them to their best potential.

The Sphere in Las Vegas has also launched this summer and the creative capabilities are yet to be seen in full flow but with 580,000 sqm of brandable surface area, the largest on planet Earth, it’s only a matter of time.


But what next then for the icons of OOH? There’s a danger of reaching a saturation point, but there’s also an opportunity for media owners and brands to work together on developing the medium by perhaps adopting some of the technology that has traditionally been sought after by smaller site owners as a response to being competitive against the larger status symbol OOH sites.

There’s certainly a natural progression into the integration of social platforms with the global icons, given that a significant portion of ad campaigns that end up on these surfaces are there to create a buzz through social and digital amplification more than the actual location of the site.

Continuing the conversation beyond the paid media has always been an issue for the ‘big splash’ campaigns – especially from the MENA region, where the battle for a voice on the global stage has been a challenge.

The Sphere in Las Vegas has shown that there’s still very much a wow factor in being outstandingly large, so there’s definitely life in that old dog for some time yet, but when iconic sites are truly capable of enabling longevity in advertising campaigns through leveraging other media channels is when we might see the next incremental growth step.

Until then, let’s just sit back and enjoy the overstated beauty of being big and bold, and having a ready-made solution to fast-track your communication on the world stage in an instant.

By Manoj Khimji, Managing Director at The MediaVantage

Campaign Middle East will be hosting its monthly Breakfast Briefing on the Out of Home industry on 10th November at the Grand Plaza Mövenpick, Media City, Dubai. To find out more click here.