High-tech advertising on high-definition (HD) screens is taking over from old-fashioned static-image billboards. But while the future looks glitzy, neon is definitely out.
Neon signs used to be really big, but does anyone still buy them?
A number of businesses based on Abu Dhabi's Airport Road still make neon signs, but far fewer people are buying them nowadays. "Neon is finished. People are using LED more often," says Abdul Semad, who works at Next Neon, which also makes traditional posters, banners, stand-up charts and outdoor signage. He estimates sales of neon signs have declined by about 80 per cent in the past couple of years, with LED signs, which use lettering illuminated by lighting, increasing by the same number.
Why the drastic decline?
Neon signs are a lot more dangerous for one, because they catch fire easily, and they also consume more energy. "The main plus point is that LED doesn't need maintenance. For the neon, every six months it needs maintenance," says Mr Semad.
Will there still be a place for the neon and LED sign makers?
For the foreseeable future, probably, as not all small businesses can afford the initial outlay of HD. But the new digital technology is also encroaching on their territory. Advanced Interactive Media Solutions (Aims) has started making digital menu boards for restaurants. "If you go to a restaurant and you see a static menu board, we are converting them into digital," says Rehan Afridi, the business development manager at Aims. "You can put videos and do all this stuff and you can change it when you want to."
Are there any limitations to digital signage here?
The Integrated Systems (Tis) says a number of its clients have applied to erect large digital signs and been refused. In 2010, Coca-Cola applied to place a large digital advert on a building on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. "They asked us for LED with a special design. They blocked everything, for road safety and traffic," says the Tis sales manager Mohamed Adel. So perhaps there will still be a place, for a while at least, for companies such as Next Neon.