Can OOH be an integral part of public space design?
By N Jayalakshmi - May 10, 2022
Manosh De, Urban Planning Expert at the Dubai Municipality, who has many years of experience in public space planning, sustainable development and design management, among other areas, shares with Outdoor Asia /Media4Growth, his insights on how OOH as a medium can not only elevate the urban space experience, but also serve as a touchpoint for public engagement, utility and services.
To start with, could you talk about some global examples where OOH has successfully served as a point of intersection between brand advertising and public experience?
The most successful examples are those that integrate different aspects and serve multiple purposes. There are some obvious and prominent landmarks like Piccadilly and Times Square, and then there is Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is particularly interesting. The place has become quite iconic in the way it integrates public events, information, advertising, and personal communications.
The fact is that with technology constantly moving and the quality of screens getting better, the dynamics of communications are also constantly evolving. Public space is now being designed to create focal points wherein people can have enhanced experiences.
What about other public utilities like street furniture? How do you think these media formats can be integrated into the overall experience?
In the context of public utilities, checks and controls are very important to avoid over commercialisation and general obstruction. Some good examples of combining functionalities with aesthetics in the context of public utilities are mobile charging points with solar panels, which form part of urban furniture. In Dubai, for example, in public spaces like beaches and public parks there are well designed charging points with solar panels on top which make them flexible to move around. They also have screens integrated with them and serve as ‘selfie points’ for people to commemorate and share the moment.
So, depending on the need and function, there is opportunity for different types of PPP projects. Despite the digital proclivity, outdoor/mass messaging still has a lot of value. But what essentially needs to change is the creative approach to it so that it still remains relevant in the public space. We as urban designers and planners need to work to ensure that the principles of urban design and planning are not compromised.
So does this entail a greater need to integrate Design Thinking in public space and infrastructure development?
Yes, for sure. In some cities like Dubai we have already adopted this thinking in our design and work very closely with OOH agencies to establish guidelines for the aesthetic appearance of the display. I'm sure it's maturing in India as well. The approach needs to be a combination of science and aesthetics and keep pace with new advancements in technology - whether in terms of planning the location of screens, their appearance, the messaging or other creative aspects. Equally important is the role of regulations, which have to result in a win-win situation for all concerned.
It also means greater collaboration between all the stakeholders, doesn’t it - the regulators, the media owners themselves and the advertisers?
Yes! There are different public utilities that benefit directly from OOH which have to be involved. You could also create a common pool or a common infrastructure fund for the proceeds so that everybody can be benefited from it. Different cities have different structures when it comes to cost maintenance of the infrastructure. But what is crucial is a holistic point of view, which includes both the aesthetic and infrastructure needs and involves all concerned - the urban planning/ design team from the government, the infrastructure teams from the private sector, the creative team from the advertising agency, and others concerned.
Read the full interview in the May 2022 edition of Outdoor Asia magazine