So it has finally happened. Malta has made the shift from a figurative sea of billboards to a literal one. It’s no secret that outdoor advertising on the island has swollen into an unreasonable, festering eyesore – But this latest development, billboards at sea, is in such bad taste that it makes you wonder what kind of cultural rapist thought it a good idea. With summer just around the corner, we may all have to start brushing up our Photoshop skills if we want our beach selfies and sunset photos to be billboard-free.
Thanks for that.
But enough moaning. Let’s give these billboards a proper burial at sea. Here’s why they’re a fucking awful idea, and what we can do about it.
First of all, the more billboards there are, the less effect any of them have on us. It’s a bit like opening the phonebook and skimming through all the names and numbers. No single name or number is likely to immediately stand out. There are so many of them that the mind must deliberately focus to take notice of a specific listing. Equally, a single billboard among a shit-ton of billboards is about as distinctive as a pigeon dropping in St. Georges Square.
"The truth is, you don’t get someone on your side by poking them in the eye for attention."
Second, people don’t tend to think positively about spending their money on advertised products when the advert format itself is inherently annoying or intrusive. If that were not the case, marketers would have resorted to branded bear-traps long ago. The truth is, you don’t get someone on your side by poking them in the eye for attention.
Third, we are an island nation economically dependent on ‘sun, fun and sea’ tourism. Half the people advertising on the island would lose money if our tourism product went into decline. It makes no sense whatsoever to invest in a form of advertising that actually stands to get in the way of us selling our biggest asset – lovely sea views.
"[Brands] understand that it doesn’t pay to piss off your audience. We’re the audience."
Lucky for us, there is a way that we can pretty much put this farce to bed. Brands and marketers are hypersensitive to negative feedback. For the past few years I’ve worked with a lot of Malta’s biggest brands and I know from first hand experience that they understand that it doesn’t pay to piss off your audience. We’re the audience. All we need to do, is be pissed off. We’re also Maltese. Being pissed off about things is practically a national pastime. Let’s put it to use.
Lovin Malta is currently sponsoring this post on Facebook. For every share on that post, we’ll up our budget by 50c. The idea is to send a message to local brands and let them know that we will not be receptive to their adverts if they choose to buy billboards at sea.
Beppe Coleiro is Co-Founder of creative marketing agency Blonde and Giant.