Dubai could be set for a new, revolutionary feature added to its skyline

Dubai is target for company that wants to build revolutionary marketing tool that sends temporary image to viewer’s retina.

Lightvert Ltd hopes to revolutionise advertising across the globe. Courtesy Lightvert Ltd
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DUBAI // Images of an ice-cold Coca-Cola suspended in the sky on a hot summer’s day or the latest Mercedes-Benz projecting from one of Dubai’s iconic buildings could be the next level of advertising targeting UAE consumers.

A United Kingdom start-up has patented a new display medium that could revolutionise the advertising world and the way we make consumer choices.

Lightvert Ltd, a tech company run by American entrepreneur Daniel Siden, has developed the Echo system, a persistence of vision display technology that temporarily prints an image directly on to the viewer’s retina.

Images are generated using a single vertical line of light, so do not exist in reality. Adverts up to 200 metres tall could appear, but only in the viewer’s eye.

Project designer Mr Siden, from San Francisco, hopes to bring the technology to the Middle East this year and said Dubai’s skyline was the perfect place to display what he hopes will be the future of advertising.

“The UAE is an important market for us, because the world looks to it for innovation, particularly on an architectural scale,” he said.

“What we have is a display technology that is unbelievably innovative and relies quite heavily on the property market, like most outdoor media.

“Outdoor advertising is traditionally at street level on a human scale – we are looking to change all that by opening up new amounts of high-value advertising real estate, and that is tall buildings.”

The concept may be hard to grasp but developers insist the display is safe and will not cause a distraction to drivers or pilots.

LED advertising, used since 2005, is limited to the amount of available real estate in prime urban locations. With the Echo system, a narrow strip of reflective material is fixed to a building with a high-speed light scanner projecting light off the reflector towards the viewer.

This creates large-scale images that are “captured” for a brief moment in the viewer’s eye. The images are fleeting but striking, prompting viewers to engage and share the experience.

Like any display, extreme weather affects the quality of the experience but it is cheaper and kinder to the environment than other forms of media and advertising.

“This is about human behaviour,” Mr Siden said. “We’ve all grown up around two-dimensional media and become very good at ignoring it because the experience is everywhere. [This] places the brand’s message in the context of the city skyline, so it stands alone in a prominent position.”

Mr Siden has opened seed-funding applications to make the Dh3.05 million project a reality within six months, and sourced a supply chain with Kinetic Worldwide, a global leader in “out of home” advertising with more than 800 brand clients.

In 2015, according to the Abu Dhabi communication ana-lysts Locus, the UAE spent US$407 million (Dh1.5 billion) on outdoor advertising, $666m on newspaper advertising, $229m in magazines and a combined $373m on television, radio and cinema.

The idea of in-the-sky advertising has been well received in the Dubai industry.

“The fact it’s new and innovative is a key plus point,” said Vishal Anand, chief executive at Blue Apple, an advertising and brand communications agency in Dubai.

“It will help in breaking out from the clutter and stand out from other formats.”

“As long as it isn’t causing any structural issue or any regular maintenance issues, this concept would appeal to most iconic buildings.”

Simon Dicketts, executive creative director of M&C Saatchi, said it was an exciting development. “A technology that frees up the mind to new, creative possibilities has to be a good thing,” he said.