Firm goes for life in the slow lane with camera sponsorship

They are a driver’s worst enemy — and now they have become one of this year’s most hotly debated advertisements.

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By  Richard Abbott Published  October 2, 2005

They are a driver’s worst enemy — and now they have become one of this year’s most hotly debated advertisements. Technology firm HP sponsored 26 speed cameras along Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road, and the branding will be in place for the rest of this month. But the fluorescent ads — which urge motorists to drive safely — received a mixed reaction from the media community, with some questioning the wisdom of using such a controversial medium. Sherifa Hady, marketing manager, HP Middle East, said the ads, which were the brainchild of media agency Optimedia, gave an important community message. “We wanted something big, bold and different during Gitex and we wanted to do something for society so we are very proud of this,” she said. “Traffic and accidents on this road are very important issues.” But she rejected the idea that using speed cameras risked negative feedback. “There could be a bad association because you could get fined through them but if you see the ‘drive safely’ message that will alert you to slow down.” Fadi Kachkouche, general manager at Optimedia Middle East, said the agency had worked tirelessly to get clearance from the police and local authorities for the campaign. “No one has done this before. We worked for 40 days non-stop with all sorts of government offices,” he said. “Some people have said it is a distracting message, but the police are happy with it.” The speed cameras were the talk of the media community last week. Those driving to Dubai Media City were unable to miss them as they passed along Sheikh Zayed Road. One creative, who asked not to be named, e-mailed Campaign to ask: “Is nothing sacred? This is on a par with advertising in men’s toilets — an activity for very few companies who think their brand could and should be associated with such a position. “I’m sorry, but ‘HP invent’ is the message on the front, and ‘drive carefully’ is the public service afterthought message on the back. Is it me, or is it getting a bit silly now?” Suhail Mohamed, group account director at DMC-based advertising and marketing agency Ikon Communications, said it was a sound corporate social responsibility effort from HP, but questioned the overall message. “The message tends to catch you offguard,” he said. “‘HP — Reduce your speed’ does make one think that the brand has reinvented IT all over again with the onus being on low speed machines.”

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