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After viral billboards craze, is the era of simulated-out-of-home advertising next?


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

April 6, 2023 | 8 min read

Your social media feeds are awash with fantastical, far-flung 3D billboards you’ll probably never see in the flesh. Will AI-simulated outdoor ads be next? We catch up with a creative director drawing praise for his imagined outdoor art installations that blur the lines of fact and fiction in advertising.

Andres Reisinger 01

AI OOH installation / Andres Reisinger

Out-of-home (OOH) billboards are simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. That is, you’ll have seen them but most likely on social media and probably not in person, lending credence to the argument that an increasing number of outdoor ads are made for virality rather than verity.

Paired with the rapid rise of AI-generated content, the line between fact and fiction in advertising is narrower than ever before. So, if advertisers are already indulging in OOH illusions (that is, one-shot executions created for timelines rather than sidewalks), would it theoretically matter if the billboards weren’t real at all? Are we entering a new era of simulated-out-of-home advertising?

One person well-placed to answer that question is Andrés Reisinger, a Barcelona-based creative director who has gained international notoriety through his out-of-this-world out-of-home experiences shared on social media. His soft and dreamlike sculptures have adorned the facades of residential buildings, stores and country abodes in cities such as Milan, Munich and Dubai. Except, they haven’t. Not in the real world at least, but you can see by the comments on Reisinger’s posts that many online onlookers haven’t been able to separate fact from fiction.

According to the designer, the term ‘reality’ has no relevance at all. He describes his creative studio as “unclassifiable,” bridging the imagined and tangible. “I am a digital artist and designer,” he tells us. “I create artworks and installations that move in between the physical and the digital. I’m interested in defining what I believe to be the future of experiences.”

Andres Reisinger 02

His ambiguous work is meticulously rendered using a palette of Wes Anderson-style pastels to create ethereal executions, amassing him over 300,000 Instagram followers. “Anything that is part of a human experience is actually real,” he says. He quotes Pablo Picasso, who famously said that everything you can imagine is real. “Does it matter whether they are tangible or not? They leave an impact, an impression, form memory and taste, and whatever they have left becomes part of the individuals who have witnessed it.”

Outdoor advertising has long been a channel that has inspired creativity. It’s multifaceted and, with the rise in camera phones over the last two decades, the way people come across ads has evolved and, even outside of marketing circles, excellent work has the potential to create brand fame.

As AI-generated artwork becomes almost indistinguishable from the real thing, evidenced by the Balenciaga-clad Pope Francis that hoodwinked social media in April, Reisinger thinks advertisers will need to proceed with caution.

“Blurring the lines between fact and fiction in advertising can have pros and cons. On the pro side, it allows for more creativity and innovation, enabling advertisers to captivate audiences and create memorable campaigns. It can also be an effective way to explore complex ideas and evoke emotions.

“On the con side, it can lead to misinformation and confusion, potentially eroding trust between brands and consumers. It’s crucial to strike a balance, ensuring that creativity doesn’t compromise transparency and honesty.”

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It’s not just the limitless creativity that’s appealing to advertisers; AI offers personalization capabilities and informative messaging that can be somewhat overwhelming. M&C Saatchi and Clear Channel, for example, released a hard-hitting Mother’s Day campaign that used a machine learning system to recognize ambulance sirens going past. As the noise intensified, the billboard showed worried messages sent from mothers to their sons about the dangers of carrying a knife.

“AI ads may not be the inevitable next step in out-of-home PR stunts, but they certainly have the potential to revolutionize the industry,” says Reisinger. “As AI technologies continue to advance, we can expect new possibilities for creating more personalized, engaging and contextually relevant ads.”

Andres Reisinger 03

Reisinger warns, however, that it is essential to remember that “human creativity and empathy will always play a crucial role in crafting compelling and meaningful campaigns”. It’s a sentiment that was echoed by brand strategist Tom Roach when asked how his team of planners is using AI chatbot ChatGPT. He told The Drum: “If you were to apply it to the world of generating creative ideas, you’re still going to need somebody with taste and experience to spot the gems.”

With a plethora of tech at their fingertips, how can brands lean into this new era of advertising successfully? “By working with creatives who master the technology and apply it using its utmost potential,” says Reisinger. “It’s important to add a human touch and convey the idea that the digital realm is indeed part of a human experience, rather than its antagonist or a separated being. Brands can help us in accepting and building a strong and healthy relationship with all that is part of the digital.”

On a human level, democratizing creative experiences is something that hasn’t been widely explored, explains the artist. He concludes that AI practices are a discovery of new possibilities for creative expression. “I consider the digital realm my field of never-ending experimentation.”

For more on the latest happenings in AI, web3 and other cutting-edge technologies, check out The Drum’s AI to Web3: the Tech Takeover Deep Dive. And don’t forget to sign up for The Emerging Tech Briefing newsletter.

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