A few years back, I was described in the International Herald Tribune (now the International New York Times) as ‘The Conscience of the 21st Century’.
I work as a public artist, often in collaboration with the global OOH industry. I believe that the most beautiful thing of all is justice. For me it’s more beautiful than all the colored paint in the world.
So ‘conscience’ has meant ‘saying in my art what I believe is right even though it might be unpopular, difficult, or dangerous.’ Over the years, it has brought me a heady mix of ridicule, rejection, quiet appreciation and acclaim.
The great thing about art-making for DOOH is that the medium itself is uniquely well placed to act as conscience. People are beginning to see social media as essentially ‘two faced’. They liken it to a compulsive liar who tells different people different versions of the truth, depending on what it thinks you want to hear. It is pretty much impossible for us to hold social media in any particular regard because it is structurally duplicitous. You could say its moral center is fuzzy.
The great thing about art-making for DOOH is that the medium itself is uniquely well placed to act as conscience.
Compare this with DOOH which, by definition, can only ever say one thing to everyone. It is out there for all to see. It is witnessed collectively. A DOOH site is also fixed geographically. It’s there in the neighborhood. It’s labelled. We know who’s behind it, who’s on it, who’s saying these things to us. It is absolutely clear who is responsible.
This is a good recipe for conscience. All of the great OOH companies display some form of socially engaged content in addition to advertising. This was apparent more than ever during the Covid 19 pandemic when DOOH carried messages for everyone to see to help keep everyone safer.
Many of the world’s leading OOH companies partner with me to present socially engaged public art. Together we have called for greater equality between men and women, for LGBT+ rights, for equality of economic opportunity, and for justice and fairness for all.
DOOH ‘walks the talk’. It provides space for content that really can act as the conscience of our times. When advertisers choose DOOH, they are partnering with a transparent global broadcast medium – the only one of its kind – which has value way beyond its commercial role.
When advertisers choose DOOH, they are partnering with a transparent global broadcast medium – the only one of its kind – which has value way beyond its commercial role.
And if the public trusts the medium more, they will trust the message more.
The public artist Martin Firrell is internationally renowned for showing socially engaged artworks in collaboration with the global OOH industry.