An icon is an object, a place or a face that stands out from the rest. It is easily recognisable, it may have some well-known significance and embody certain qualities that give it a certain standing. An icon can be something that has been around for centuries or for a number of days, depending on its impact.
The Hollywood sign in the Hollywood Hills area of Mount Lee, Santa Monica Mountains, in Los Angeles, California is iconic. It has been depicted in countless movies and is instantly recognisable, symbolising the glamour of Hollywood and its actors. When the pope visited the United States, the sign was made to read HolyWood.
Closer to home Ponte in Hillbrow, ever since Coca Cola in the 1990s circled the very top with its iconic brand in lights, has become somewhat of a landmark. The advertising structure, currently displaying Vodacom creative, is the largest billboard in the Southern hemisphere, measuring 18m high and 130m in circumference. The total area of the site is 2340 m2. It is visible for many the M1 kilometres in all directions, making it highly recognisable and highly sought-after.
At times, iconic sites need to be revealed. Take The M1 underpass in Johannesburg, thousands of motorists pass under its rib-like structure every day. It was grey concrete, blending into the background when somebody saw its enormous potential. With Provantage’s flair for innovation, the ribs were converted into the South African flag, as part of a campaign for MTN in 2010 over the FIFA World Cup period. It was a new, fresh way of displaying the South African flag, across almost a kilometre of Johannesburg highway.
We live in a changing world with city landscapes evolving with the philosophy of the day. In the Philippines, the greenest ever Coca Cola billboard has been erected. In collaboration with the World WildLife Fund, a 60 by 60 ft billboard covered in Fukien tea plants, which absorb air pollution, was put up in an area surrounded by industry. The billboard helps alleviate air pollution within its proximity as each plant absorbs carbon dioxide. The rest of the billboard is just as environment friendly. The plants are contained in 3 600 pots made from old Coke bottles and designed to help them grow sideways.
The array of out of home advertising is city dependent. Municipal red tape and by laws create bigger challenges for out of home agencies. This is not all together a bad situation as it forces out the box and, dare I say it, out of home thinking where opportunities need to be discovered or created in ways that are even more striking than ever before.
The MINI Countryman billboard at the exit of OR Tambo International Airport mimicked the flashing lights of a runway, the MINI, itself an icon, was literally about to take off. The fibreglass MINI Countryman was mounted onto a billboard exiting the international airport. The messaging was “now everyone gets a window seat”. The brief was to come up with an idea that would draw attention to the MINI’s newest family member and the fact that it has four doors. It also had to fit in with the OR Tambo environment. Staying true to brief, the results were iconic.
Iconic sites, keeping them, finding them or creating them allows us to keep the out of home landscape exciting, it makes us mavericks, entrepreneurs, geniuses, it pushes our out of home flair, forces us to release our inner artistic sleuth, collaborate and see the world in a different light. It squeezes us out of our comfort zones and use our city landscape in ways that make it more exciting to the industry, to our clients and, certainly not least, the public.