The signs are bright

TBWA/Raad ECD Fouad Ab­del Malek says out­door can be a lot more than a big poster. And his agency’s award-win­ning High­way Gallery proves that



Out­door is no longer a large poster, as most peo­ple would have you be­lieve. It’s evolved in leaps and bounds, es­pe­cially in the last decade. Not nec­es­sar­ily in our part of the world, but there are a few no­table ex­cep­tions.

Out­door can take on many guises, from a bus shel­ter to a pop-up store, from a data-driven dig­i­tal screen to tran­sit medi­ums like trains, planes and au­to­mo­biles. Add to that the ad­vent of im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ences, the street-art pieces, am­bi­ent struc­tures, stunts and mov­ing wall dis­plays, and it sud­denly be­comes a much more en­gag­ing medium, of­ten with stronger reach and re­call than an in­tru­sive on­line ad. And it doesn’t stop there; last year at the Dubai Mo­tor Show, In­finiti served dif­fer­ent con­tent on its dig­i­tal screens de­pend­ing on the gen­der of passers-by. Out­door now comes equipped with con­cealed cam­eras, and through com­plex al­go­rithms can de­tect de­mo­graphic traits and dis­play ads that are more suited to that par­tic­u­lar per­son. Dy­namic out­door is al­ready fea­tur­ing in me­dia plan­ning in the US and Europe, and should be­come more preva­lent here soon.

Ac­cord­ing to Face­book, con­sumers con­sume me­dia 70 per cent on the go, so OOH can drive those con­sumers from that medium into the on­line realm. So now that you know its true po­ten­tial, I hope you’ll be ask­ing your­self, your ad­ver­tis­ers or your clients: “Why are we get­ting it so wrong?”


On a creative level: Noth­ing is more sat­is­fy­ing for a creative than to see their work re­pro­duced on a large scale. Out­door brings you a sense of pride that few other medi­ums can pro­vide. I’m not talk­ing about the hun­dreds of square me­ters of end­less burger pic­tures lin­ing Al Asayel Street or com­pletely un­re­al­is­tic ren­der­ings of real es­tate dream homes stretch­ing for miles along Sheikh Zayed Road; I’m talk­ing about ef­fec­tive and bold in­no­va­tive out­door work.


We have been for­tu­nate enough to be al­lowed such a priv­i­lege with our in­ter­pre­ta­tion of what a mu­seum like the Lou­vre Abu Dhabi can pro­pose to a re­gion new to mu­seum cul­ture. “The High­way Gallery” was a col­lab­o­ra­tion of ex­tra­or­di­nary scale and per­se­ver­ance. From its in­cep­tion to com­ple­tion, it re­de­fined the medium, us­ing tech­nol­ogy at the core to give an ex­pe­ri­en­tial di­men­sion to an other­wise sim­ple out­door medium. By adding ra­dio jam­ming, we man­aged to de­liver an au­dio guide to 12,000 ve­hi­cles daily, mak­ing their 100km jour­ney from Dubai to Abu Dhabi a more pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence. This out­door ac­ti­va­tion brought new mean­ing to how a mu­seum can be made rel­e­vant in this day and age, un­der­lin­ing the strength of the mu­seum’s credo: “See Hu­man­ity in a New Light.” And with the bold vi­sion and re­lent­less push for in­no­va­tion from our Lou­vre Abu Dhabi client, High­way Gal­leries 2.0 and 3.0 are com­ing soon.

Chris Gar­butt, Cannes Out­door jury pres­i­dent said, re­fer­ring to Bud­weiser’s Tag Words and McDon­ald’s Fol­low the Arches, “We say that cul­ture is our com­pe­ti­tion, not other ads – and it’s hard to get no­ticed. If you can cre­ate some­thing that joins those con­ver­sa­tions and be­comes the fo­cus of the day, I think you’ve won.”

The Lou­vre ex­e­cu­tion dis­played the hall­marks of what out­door should de­liver: im­me­di­acy; fresh think­ing (on two clas­si­cal medi­ums per­ceived to be dy­ing); brand­ing prow­ess; a driver of ticket sales through a di­rect call to ac­tion; in­clu­siv­ity to be en­joyed on mul­ti­ple medi­ums (out­door and ra­dio); an en­hanced jour­ney through con­tent; and a con­ver­sa­tion piece at home and abroad.

The data was so as­tound­ing we had to run the num­bers again and again to en­sure they were real. And in the process, I might have been one of the first cre­atives to be taught how to read and in­ter­pret data pro­vided by the Crim­son Hexagon me­dia mea­sur­ing tool. Or­ganic me­dia im­pres­sions for Lou­vre Abu Dhabi were at 329,593 15 days prior to in­stalling the High­way Gallery, and jumped up to a whop­ping 35mil­lion-plus, 15 days af­ter the in­stal­la­tion, with an in­crease of 1,180 per cent in so­cial men­tions and un­prece­dented ex­po­sure for the Lou­vre Abu Dhabi in the world press (more than 1,000 ed­i­to­rial pieces from around the globe).

Out­door might be dif­fer­ent in the fu­ture, but one thing will never change: it takes a col­lab­o­ra­tion among tal­ent, client, agency and third par­ties to make it work. Once you have all these el­e­ments aligned, then there should be noth­ing stop­ping you from achiev­ing great­ness, and the fu­ture of out­door will be truly bright.

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