Dubai Skyline
Dubai issues tougher regulations on advertising and the messages they carry. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: Dubai has issued a new Decree to regulate outdoor advertisements and their placements in Dubai. It will also mean that signature landmarks of Dubai cannot be featured in ads without prior approval.

Advertisements cannot be placed on historic buildings, government and residential buildings, traffic lights and signs, trees, places of worship, restricted areas, military areas, and any other location restricted by authorised entities. The Decree was issued by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. 

This arrangement will also monitor ads to prevent misinformation and violations of public order, morals and customs. The Decree is applicable to all advertisements in Dubai, including within privately owned development zones and free zones.

According to Satish Mayya, CEO of BPG Max, "Definitely, a great move by the Government... this will definitely stop the misuse of iconic locations/building images without prior approvals. This will also help advertising agencies and government bodies to work closely for the betterment of residents and the society as a whole."

As per the new rules, it is "strictly forbidden for any entity to display advertisements in Dubai without obtaining prior permission from competent authorities".

Outdoor makes up 22 per cent of the UAE's $1.5 billion advertising spend. 

The Decree also makes it mandatory for "closer interaction" between various Dubai Government agencies and the ad industry. These include Dubai Municipality, Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Department of Economic Development, the concerned authority managing a private development zone, the authority overseeing a free zone, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Dubai Maritime City Authority.

Guidelines coming soon

Dubai Municipality will develop a sets of guidelines detailing all the procedures and technical specifications for obtaining advertisement permits. All applications for ad permits must meet the guidelines.

All outdoor advertising in Dubai will need to have prior approval from concerned government departments.

After receiving the permit, the applicant must fully comply with the specs, including the dimensions, timeframe, advertisement method and all other procedures and technical specifications outlined in the guideline.

Once the authorised period for display is over or the contract has expired, the advertising company must remove the ad and restore the location to its original state. The Decree also specifies the fines and penalties for violations. (A violator can appeal in writing to the director-general of the concerned government entity within 30 days of the date of the fine notification.)

Impact on outdoor

For the ad industry, it means they need to start thinking different. "If outdoor focussed ad firms want to keep their edge, they've got to come up with new concepts that don't just catch the attention, but also our imagination as well," said Alex Malouf of Advertising Business Group. "Outdoor can be very engaging when done right - just think about what the Louvre Abu Dhabi did with its museum highway concept.

"But the sector overall has been slow to innovate." 

Bylaws to be issued
The Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai will issue bylaws required to implement the Decree. It annuls Local Order No. (30) of 1986 regarding supervision of advertisements in Dubai and any other legislation that contradicts or challenges its articles.
The new Decree will be published in the Official Gazette and will be effective 3 months after the date of its publication.