Outdoor under fire over issue of clutter

Outdoor advertising is dogged by clutter and is in dire need of a creative injection, according to advertising experts.

As media owners prepare to form an association to push outdoor higher up the media agenda, the region's creatives have delivered a withering verdict on its effectiveness and questioned its value for money.

"Agencies and clients aren't putting enough into the creative side and there's just too much of it," said Michael Youssef, copywriter at Leo Burnett in Cairo.

"People don't want to see all of this junk in their face, they don't want to be badgered by advertising 24 hours a day everywhere they go. If it's artistic then it can be very nice, but if it's just the usual boring visuals that are very clich├ęd it just doesn't do very much."

Cairo is considered to be one of the worst cases of outdoor advertising clutter in the Middle East, with the Cairo-Alex Road singled out by Youssef. "Millions of people take that road. It's just been bombarded with billboards. One after another, after another," he said.

"People can't take all that in. They have become immune to outdoor advertising, they automatically block it out as they're passing by."

Rating a selection of outdoor advertising in a Private View feature in this week's issue, Vincent Raffray, creative director at Tonic Commuications, said the medium was "like a weed growing out of control, strangling the environment and the city with mindless messages and tasteless communication".

"To add insult to injury, these goliaths of the streets are filled with communication that insults our very intelligence," he said.

"Most outdoor and ambient executions you see nowadays are pretty bland and lack creative thought. It's very rare that you see a great concept that actually plays off its environment or an idea that stops you in your tracks."

In the same feature, Thomas Lundgren, boss of furniture chain The One, said the high cost of outdoor advertising was not delivering value for clients.

"It's all about quantity instead of quality and considering that there's a billboard site on every corner, I feel the cost far outweighs the value," he said. "I love advertising, but I don't want to see it everywhere I look. The UAE outdoor advertising scene is a nightmare at the moment."

Among the biggest exponents of outdoor advertising are real estate firms, who have come under particular fire.

Bengt Eriksson, MD for the Middle East and North Africa at branding specialist Landor Associates, said: "It's not about putting a name and a flashy logo on a building. Some of the offers here are not very differentiated."

Loosely named the Outdoor Advertising Association - UAE chapter, the new outdoor association met two weeks ago and is expected to officially launch before the end of the year.

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