Outdoor advertising is a form of advertising that is very popular amongst brands because of the reach of the platform. It is an important marketing tool that can stimulate brand awareness, recall, and recognition dramatically. With the right kind of content and placed at the right location, advertisers can leverage the medium to reach out to a target market or captivate the audience.
The United Arab Emirates has become a trendsetter in economic growth and prosperity for the world. As more and more foreign and domestic companies enter the commercial foray here, there is a growing requirement for outdoor advertising like hoardings and billboards to showcase their brands, product, and service lines.
The nation has endless opportunities in terms of the availability of high-rise buildings, highways, malls, public places and intersections, and more locations earmarked for visibility.
Objectives of outdoor advertising regulations
The primary purpose of the outdoor advertising regulations in the UAE is to ensure:
- The safety of the public and traffic, especially pedestrians and motorists.
- The integrity and security of structures.
- Legibility of the advertisement.
- Preserving the spatial and visual beauty of the Emirates.
- That the advertisement content is harmonized with the building design.
- That the advertisement content is not against local customs, moral values, and religious sentiments.
- Prevention of violation of public order.
- Alignment with green development practices and sustainability.
Outdoor advertising regulations
The regulations cover outdoor advertising in all parts of the Emirate, be it free zones or private development areas. Generally, there are three aspects to the advertising regulations for outdoor media. These are:
1. Permission from concerned authorities
No outdoor advertisements are allowed in the UAE without prior permission from competent authorities in the given jurisdiction. A permit is crucial for outdoor advertising, whether digital screens, hoardings, billboards, or any other form. For example, the authorities responsible for granting a permit for outdoor advertising in Dubai are:
- The Roads and Transport Authority
- Dubai Municipality
- Dubai Civil Aviation Authority
- Dubai Maritime City Authority and
- The Department of Economic Development
Similarly, in Abu Dhabi, advertisers and marketers need to apply for a permit with the Department of Economic Development. Sometimes, the application for the permit needs to go to the health and education departments for approval before receiving permission.
In all the Emirates, there are legal punishments for non-compliance with the regulation. For example, if a party does not seek a permit and install an outdoor advert in Dubai, they are fined AED 15,000 as per the new law. The value gets multiplied when the offense is repeated.
The National Media Council (NMC) of the Emirate is responsible for laying down the general guidelines for outdoor advertising. Some of the policies are as follows:
- The advertising content must be respectful of the UAE government, the political institutions, and emblems.
- The content cannot be religiously offensive, including Islam and other heavenly religions.
- The content should uphold the values and morals of the culture of the UAE.
- The content should comply with the health advertisement rules as passed by the Cabinet.
- In the case of ads related to education, health, or real estate, it is important to seek permission from concerned authorities first.
- For ads related to Hajj or Umrah, concerned authorities must approve the same.
- Respect for intellectual property rights is essential.
- The codes of conduct need to be complied with, including consumer protection, fair competition controls, etc.
- It is unlawful to advertise smoking, tobacco usage, or any other illicit service in the nation.
Besides the content standards, NMC has also laid down the conditions for advertisements that ad-men need to comply with. For example, the ad content should not be ambiguous or unclear. It cannot contain misleading or deceptive information, be genuine, etc.
Since the gamut of the guidelines and conditions are manifold, it is a good idea to speak to a legal expert to get clarity and better understand the policies.
3. Location of the ad
Certain locations are forbidden from putting up outdoor advertisements. These include:
- Places of worship
- Buildings of historical, cultural, or religious significance
- Government areas and buildings
- Archeological sites
- Locations that can obstruct traffic movement and clear visibility of the road.
- Public facilities.
Other aspects that impact the outdoor advertising regulations in the UAE
An advertiser’s decision to invest in billboards and other outdoor advertising is influenced by more than just the specific media legislation for outdoor advertising. Multiple other laws need to be considered. For example, fraud is a severe offense in the UAE. As per the conditions of advertising mentioned by the National Media Council, advertisers need to ensure that the ad content is one-hundred percent authentic and accurate. On a similar note, advertisers need to seek permission and approval from the health department when advertising medicines or energy drinks. There are specific regulations about carrying out outdoor ads for nurseries, schools, universities, colleges, and other educational institutes. Marketers need to ensure complete compliance with rules at all costs.
Besides, individuals, corporate entities, GCC Citizens, and GCC companies and organizations must comply with specific guidelines and conditions to carry out outdoor advertising-related activities. For example, an individual with a criminal background may not be given the license to advertise. Likewise, corporate entities should not have any financial outstandings towards the Council, and so on.
Additionally, there are specific conditions for filling up the electronic forms to obtain the outdoor advertising license.
As is evident, there are strict regulations and guidelines for outdoor advertising in the UAE. The UAE Government and the various authorities are particular about protecting the culture and moral values on the one hand and the safety of motorists and consumers on the other. The Government is also committed to offering the corporate and commercial sector opportunities to advertise its services and products to reach a larger audience. All of it can get overly complicated for people not well conversant with the UAE laws and regulations. Therefore, it is prudent to contact a reputed law firm like ours to ensure compliance with the required directives.