Friday, June 10, 2016

The dismal state of outdoors in Lebanon

ArcheWALLogy 4x3 by Tarek Chemaly
Some of you may have noticed that the frequency of my covering for outdoor campaigns has dwindled lately. The reasons are varied. First not many good ads are there, but also not many ads are there. I know the statistics and it seems that the outdoors has fallen, in Lebanon, on year-by-year comparison by 60%. Not to 60% but by 60%.
I was one of the optimistic ones, I was thinking this would happen in 2020, but here we are - 2016 and the figures say it all. The reasons are many - there are some very obvious ones, and some hidden ones as well.
"It's the economy, stupid!" - OK, no need for insults - the economy is indeed so bad, the market so tight, no one is actually investing in anything and advertising is the best barometer for economic recovery, and since no one pitched it, this means we have a long road ahead to cross.
Last year there was a new law to regulate outdoor advertising, but as with everything called "law", it needs (non-selective) enforcement. The end result is that there's something plastered everywhere and anywhere, but truth be told, even such bullish moves are being restrained - no, no, not by some bribery-hungry bureaucrat - but simply because, well, even such basic methods have been shunned or are being restricted by the ones who used to do them due to inefficiency.
I do not own a car, so riding in busses and public transport systems is a pleasure for me. I am not very social or talkative but am very observant. But I am the only one it seems. Everyone is so absorbed in their cellphones, they keep caressing the screen as if it were a pet asking for a morning belly-snuggle. I see everything, the instagrammers, the game-players, the ubiquitous whatsapp-users, the facebook-addicts, and the list goes on.
Everyone has their nose firmaly planted in the phone. No one looks out from the window. Naturally, no one bothers to talk. The instant of paying the driver is made so brief so as not to lose time from the ongoing discussion via the phone.
Oh, and there's ads on the phone!
Sure, everyone says "digital" without understanding what they are talking about - it reminds me of the politicians in the ninenties speaking of "the era of the internet" (3asr el internet) when obviously they could not turn on a computer, and much less surf the web!
But true, "digital" is having its effects felt - specially on big agencies who see their roles changing - and not always for the best. Clients are pinching pennies, and why would they book a campaign, print it, plaster it, so as for no one to see it, when - for the fraction of the price - they could do that online and save energy, time, effort, and money.
The technical name of the Outdoor is OOH (or Out Of Home). Meaning it is the inevitable things you see once you step of your house and are no longer to switch off the television or change the radio frequency or get rid of the newspaper.... Theoretically, you are obliged to see them. But that was before the smartphone became the cross-over between indoors and outdoors. No, when you are wrapped in your phone screen, you do not notice anything else on the road (either as passenger, or as driver - hence the warning of accidents that might happen!).
The phone has made the walls of the house "vanish" without bringing the outdoors in.
It became a medium in itself and for itself., A closed loop - where seeing ads is inevitable.
And so there, who needs outdoors when people are checking their phone internet in and out of the hous