Advertising in Davos: The message isn’t medium

January 25, 2013

With 1,500 business leaders and up to 50 government officials in town for the World Economic Forum it shouldn’t be a surprise that advertising messages in Davos are aimed at a different demographic than one would expect in even the most upscale of ski resorts.

The most popular source of ads are emerging nations attempting to attract investors with millions of dollars to sling around. For example many of the buses here tout former Soviet State Azerbaijan as the “Land of the Future.”

Despite their subject matter, some of the ads adhere to standard conventions such as citing statistics to prove their “product” is bigger or better than competitors. For example this billboard above Davos’s famed Kaffee Klatsch restaurant informs passing plutocrats of India’s high population of low median age people who apparently enjoy dressing up and striking nonchalant poses.

This ad and many others seen around town are sponsored by the India Brand Equity Foundation – “A hub of knowledge for all facts, market research, industry reports, trade information etc related to Brand India.” Here’s another one that informs the skiers and elderly residents boarding this bus that India is an “aspirational nation of potential and promise” and that, by the way, the electronics market there will grow by 700% by 2020.

Not all of the ads in town go for the hard sell. This banner on the side of the Kirchner Museum features a tasteful image of the South African flag with the simple, if open-ended, message “South Africa – Inspiring new ways.”

On the even softer-sell side, some ads aren’t at all clear about what they’re selling. This billboard posted outside a centrally-located restaurant touts something called INDIAFRICA as being “the largest people to people and youth outreach programme for over 2.5 billion people across India and Africa.”

Those wanting clarification on what INDIAFRICA actually does can visit their website which states that “INDIAFRICA: A Shared Future is a unique people to people initiative that aims at engaging multiple stakeholders in India and Africa through contests, fellowships, discussions, events, collaborative projects and cultural exchanges” a message that perhaps can only be deciphered by those in the 1%.

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