Notes from the Mediascape: El Portál, the next thing in branded everything

A new urban real estate dev chock-full of OOH ad opps, is the next thing in branded experience. And it's also what some Los Angelinos will call home.

First there was branded content. Then there was branded entertainment. Now there are full-fledged branded cities – self-contained urban centers where signs aren’t just viewed for a few seconds from a car or for a few minutes while walking by. These hyper-immersive mega complexes where people work, live and play are an advertiser’s wet dream, and construction begins in May on one of the most ambitious yet – El Portál in the US.

Set in the LA community of South Gate, 4,500 square feet of the complex’s shopping, entertainment and town hall locations are to be laced with sophisticated digital displays, from high-def LED billboards beaming down on a plaza where thousands can gather for live performances, to a so-called ‘e-canvas,’ located on the façade of a Regency Theatre movie house. The e-canvas is made up of interactive screens on which viewers can compete in multi-player gaming tournaments or flip a screen’s ‘channel’ to watch anything from local sports events to user-generated content. And commercial messages are part of the experience.

The city’s interactive element is an attraction unto itself according to Adam Bleibtreu, CEO of The Retail Media Company, the enterprise responsible for El Portál’s ad strategy and design. ‘If you create an environment where people engage in media, it changes the dynamic,’ he explains. ‘If you give people the opportunity to affect their environment, they talk about it; they come there more frequently, they stay longer.’

Designed to appeal to the community’s social and family-oriented nature, El Portál is also said to be the first branded city in the US tailored to a specific cultural group – in this case, Latinos. ‘It’s smack dab in an area that’s 90% Hispanic,’ says managing partner David Goldman of Allied Retail Partners LLC, the real estate developer behind the project. He predicts 22 million people will visit El Portál each year. And with plans to collect data that will be made available to advertisers on some 200,000 customers via a retail loyalty program, Goldman predicts the advertising initiative will be ‘highly profitable’ as well.