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Why Press & Outdoor advertising is the future and not the past

Innocean Worldwide’s CCO explains why poster campaigns are here to stay

Image from the Yellow Pencil-winning Only Keep the Best of France by TBWA\Paris that won in the Press & Outdoor category in 2021

Gabriel Mattar, Chief Creative Officer at Innocean Worldwide Europe, says that though the industry has predicted the death of Press & Outdoor advertising many times, the category is now stronger than ever, because of dwindling attention spans. Mattar, who will serve as D&AD’s Press & Outdoor Jury President for 2024, has won over 300 industry awards, including D&AD Pencils. Originally from Brazil, he has worked in Europe, Asia, North and South America, and is now based in Germany, “for the good weather and great sense of humour.” Here, Mattar tells us why he’s excited about press and poster campaigns, why lawyers are underestimated in the creative process, and why he thinks AI will fuel mediocre creative work.

What are you hoping to see in D&AD Award-winning work in the Press & Outdoor category?

D&AD has always put craft above everything else and that’s what I’ll be looking at. This category requires an extremely well-crafted and well-executed idea, because there’s no room for error. You have to convey your idea in just one frame. The industry has predicted the death of Press and Outdoor many times, but it keeps getting stronger and stronger, because the necessity of conveying a message that can be understood quickly will always be there. It’s becoming even more important now as attention spans get shorter, so being able to craft a smart idea in a single frame seems more like the future than the past to me. In the end, it has to be something that makes me jealous. I want to feel moved enough to take it back to my agency and say, “Why haven’t we done something like this?”

What is going on in your industry right now that you think is important?

What excited me in the past about this industry is still what excites me today, and that is the ability to solve problems with a creative idea. I think as creatives, we used to be hidden in the back somewhere, like in the back of the kitchen. The exciting thing now is that people are recognising the value of a good idea. There are so many options and avenues now –  you can work for an agency, or directly for a client, but the one thing everyone knows now is that creativity sells.

Image from the Yellow Pencil-winning The Last Photo by adam&eveDDB that won in the Press & Outdoor category in 2023

What can you show us uniquely from your point of view in the industry others might not be aware of?

I think the essence of our industry is to seduce people. That’s always been the case, and the most successful brands were the ones that were able to seduce you in a certain way. There's a whole new generation of marketing people that never had to think like that, because they came into the industry at a time when everything is about stalking. You get your target audience’s data, you know where they are and you put your product in front of them. It’s simpler this way, but it’s less effective. If you look at all the charts, brands are spending more money and are less liked than ever before.

You’re able to show that people are clicking in your ad, but I think it gives a false sense of whether they actually like your brand or not. If you look at the research, people used to enjoy commercial breaks as much as the actual show in the 90s because advertisers were thinking of attracting people versus chasing them. Nowadays, everybody just wants to skip ads as quickly as possible because they know they’re being targeted. I think we need to focus more on our own values and show people that to attract them.

Everyone is talking about AI, what are your thoughts?

I couldn't be more fed up with AI to be honest. Yes, you don't need to start on a blank page anymore, there is someone that you can engage in a conversation, but you need to take in consideration that the conversation is taking place based on previous ideas. So the chance that you will get something fresh and original using AI prompts is very small. I think it’ll fuel more mediocre work, because if you’re using AI to create, you’re just combining ideas from what’s already out there. Until AI has emotional intelligence, it’s incapable of creating something on its own, it’s a curator.

I think it opens up an interesting new way for creatives and artists to make money though. I don’t think we’re far from a time when creatives will create plugins to be notified when someone prompts AI using their name. For example, if I typed in, “give this to me in the style of Annie Leibovitz.” She would know and get money for it. So as a creative with your own style, you could make money just like musicians do on a streaming platform, every time you play their song.

Image from the Yellow Pencil-winning The Most Valuable News by Africa that won in the Press & Outdoor category in 2021

Do you have some specific learning experience to share with others?

Working in an agency with 35 different nationalities has taught me that a great idea moves and scares everyone in the same way. You go to a client with a brave new idea and they’re scared a lot of the time, and ask how it’ll be possible, so I’ve learnt that you always need a good legal team. The reassurance a lawyer can provide a client is always surprising to me; it’s an interesting business. The greater the ideas are, the more lawyers you will need to convince people they are going to be safe when going for it. So, lawyers today are the ultimate creative directors.

D&AD Awards 2024 is now open for entries. The Press & Outdoor category celebrates Press and poster advertising, including work created for static, digital, interactive and unconventional sites. Learn more about and enter the Press & Outdoor category here.

D&AD and Global’s free on-demand Masterclass Creating Impact With Outdoor Advertising is dedicated to outdoor advertising and explores topics, such as objectives, understanding the landscape, how to add emotion, art direction and copy, and how to leverage location. Sign up here.