Hotcards Goes to Cairo!

Ads of the World Edition

Watch a film or commercial on TV in Egypt, and you'll instantly notice that the sex scenes are cut out, and all kinds of language bleeped to adapt to restrictions in the Middle Eastern world. However, hit the streets; if there are any laws restricting the sheer amount of advertising allowed outdoors in Cairo, they are unapparent.

Driving into the city on one of its massive freeways, the first thing you notice is how the gently sandblasted landscape is overlaid by a downright futuristic web of offramps and bridges, all of which are layered with billboards and other signage where roadsigns and blank building faces might otherwise be.

Imagine the city Marty McFly first encounters in Back to the Future II, or the world John Anderton occupies in Minority Report. Now change all the glossy skyscrapers to crumbling brick and marble, and change the holographic ads to print. That, in a nutshell, is the advertising environment of Cairo…



Layer upon layer of print ad clamor for attention on the vehicle-packed streets, political campaigns rubbing shoulders with marketing for American snack foods and Arabic blockbusters. Most of the signage combines English and Arabic slogans, about half of which represent ads imported directly of American, European, and Asian advertisers, while the other, more interesting unique half, are produced by the incredibly numerous Cairene ad agencies.

Interestingly, despite the obviously powerful presence of advertisers and printers in Cairo, there's still a lot of empty billboard space, and old jumbo ads, half-torn away from their moorings. Are there any rules here governing where you can put an outdoor ad, and when you have to take it down? If so, there are not strictly enforced, which must make this city an absolutely goldmine for ad agencies, marketers, and of course, printers.

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