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An Outrageous Challenge for DOOH

Proving the Essential Value of Programmatic DOOH

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message for Circle Graphics

by Martin Firrell,  Artist, Martin Firrell Company

I have a challenge for DOOH, outrageous in its scope and ambition. But it would also prove something about the essential value of programmatic DOOH.

My first work as a public artist, in collaboration with the OOH industry, was in the latter part of the 1990s. It was a short series of text and images that explored the value of difference. 

The work was created expressly for an experimental digital screen, operated by Clear Channel UK – a colossal four-story high installation on the corner of Leicester Square in the heart of London’s West End. 

The technology was so new, I was given a tour of the structure to help me understand what I was taking on. As we climbed the stairs to each of the floors behind the screen, I was shown rows and rows of whirling fans designed to cool the early light emitting panels. 

The entire installation had a sci-fi quality to it. It was as if I was in my friend Lana Wachowski’s ‘Matrix’! The screen hummed and sighed and smelled like a new car. Sometimes a panel would ‘crash’. So unwieldly was the installation, there was a permanent, full-time, attendant on site to ensure it kept humming along – and stayed alight.

This amazing structure was also a glimpse of the future – huge, bold, breathtaking and changeable at a moment’s notice. It was ‘programmatic’ long before the word had ever been used in that context.

Unlike social media, OOH is an experience shared by the citizens at any given location, without prejudice or selection. We are all equally included. We can all equally see what’s being said and who is saying it. It is impossible to duplicitous in OOH. 

Programmatic DOOH takes all of that openness and accountability and applies it to the moment.  

So here is my challenge to DOOH.

Can we make an artwork one day, in response to the world as it is evolving around us, and then display that artwork on the same day? No time lag between inspiration and dissemination. It’s art rapid response! Can we be topical, timely, open, public and present in the moment? 

And can we do that for 100 consecutive days?


To create at that speed on that scale! To be in public space, connecting to the moment, the public and current affairs! What a spectacle! And what a demonstration of the transparency, vibrancy and timeliness of DOOH!

Perhaps today I’m just feeling reckless but I reckon I’m ready to make those 100 artworks over 100 days.

The question is, ‘Is DOOH ready?’

 The public artist Martin Firrell is internationally renowned for showing socially engaged artworks in collaboration with the OOH industry.


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