Sunday, July 18, 2010

Advertising in Gabon

When I think back on my last year living in Gabon on the west coast of Africa, I wonder if I am in fact crazy.  Not crazy for spending a year in a country I never heard of before, but about wanting to get back into my chosen career.


Now that I'm back in NYC, I am attempting to re-enter the workforce based on my experience as a media/marketing/advertising executive.  It's what I've done for most of my career and I'm proud of some of the work that I've done.

While I was teaching English to Gabonese military personnel, some of the students wanted to know what I did back home.  A discussion ensued and the subject of advertising came up.  It has been the focus of my career for almost 20 years and they didn't understand what I was talking about.  You do what, I don't understand?


Here in the US, we are overrun by messaging.  In many ways, advertising shapes our culture.


In Gabon, advertising doesn't really exist.  There are no commercials on local TV; none of the radio stations that I listened to had advertising, no magazines.  The products people use are not necessarily based on choice, but on what's available...and of course affordability.  Selection can be extremely limited.  The two categories with the largest selection by far were beer and wine
Branding and signage was almost non existent in Gabon.  Signs for local stores, bars and restaurants were very small, insignificant by US standards and easily blocked by foliage.

During the time that I lived in Sabliere, an upscale neighborhood in Libreville, two small beach front hotels went up.  You didn't know they existed because there were no signs...no branding or advertising of any kind.  I assume one of the hotels had a name, because it appeared to be open for business and two of my friends went there for drinks.  How did they know about it?  Someone told them about it.  They said it was very nice, but they didn't know the name : )


The only "real"ads are on billboards along the boulevard.  This was the one association that the English class understood...ah you do those billboards...why?

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