Havas Middle East team on the Adidas swimmable billboard

Adidas and Havas Middle East worked on this ‘swimmable billboard’

The Drum, in partnership with Twitch, is revealing who has topped our 2022 World Creative Rankings – the definitive guide to advertising’s most creative brands, agencies and people. Earlier today we unveiled the 200 most awarded ad campaigns of the last 12 months. Now, we go a bit deeper on one of those campaigns, catching up with the team at Havas Middle East about their multi-award-winning ‘Liquid Billboard’ for Adidas.

From presenting the initial concept to Adidas right through to the final execution, the team at Havas Middle East had the notion of ‘freedom’ at the heart of the one-of-a-kind swimmable billboard.

“Freedom that women can find in the water, regardless of religion, shape, background ability. The water is this place where you can get into it [and] feel free,” says Joao Medeiros, executive creative director at Havas Middle East.

In the middle of Dubai’s hottest season, the team began work on a huge immersive activation to launch Adidas’s new range of inclusive swimwear.

“When we said we’re going to create the first swimmable billboard, the client’s first question was ’OK, so can we do it?’ And we didn’t know,” adds Fabio Silveira, general manager at Havas Middle East.

“We didn’t have much time, that was scary, three weeks from the presentation to being on the beach.”

Taking the plunge, Adidas put full faith in the creative team and the payoff was huge, as women of all shapes, backgrounds and abilities found liberation in the water, and in turn the brand felt accessible to the masses.

“Women in this part of the world, they’re not comfortable wearing a swimsuit, let alone jumping on the beach,” says Salma Malaeb, communications and PR at Havas Middle East. “It was as relatable as it can ever get.”

Practically, the execution was intense and required many moving parts, taking around three weeks to construct.

“We needed a lifeguard on the billboard,” Silveira jokes. “It was hot and the water kept boiling up so we kept on trying to cool the water down.”

On a more serious note, Silveira credits Adidas as “more often than not, the easy answer to, ‘we don’t know if we can pull this off’, is OK, so don’t do it. It takes a lot of courage and vision as well to be willing to do that.”

According to the team, it’s rare that the most challenging creative pitch is the one that gets the green light.

“The final idea was different from what we originally had intended. But in many ways it was so much better than what we ever thought it could end up being,” notes Anshuman Bhattacharya, associate creative director at Havas Middle East.

Authenticity is what made this campaign so successful – it was a tangible activation, used by all kinds of people in the real world.

“It had a humanity that I think people really connected with. It was a very human experience,” concludes Medeiros.