Metallica’s European Tour Showcases Renewable-Energy Big Rigs—And Their Limits
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Metallica’s European Tour Showcases Renewable-Energy Big Rigs—And Their Limits

The heavy-metal band is using natural gas and vegetable oil to power its 7,200-mile journey, but filling trucks up on sustainable fuels still has a long way to go

By PAUL BERGER
Fri, May 24, 2024 9:05amGrey Clock 3 min

Metallica, the band that blazed a trail for thrash metal with rugged guitar riffs and relentless drumbeats, is trying to do something similar for trucks powered by sustainable fuels.

The group, a rock music mainstay since their 1986 hit album “Master of Puppets,” is looking to burnish its bona fides on social issues by using rigs powered by fuels including biomethane and vegetable oil on its European tour this summer.

Working with European truck maker Iveco, the authors of songs including “Battery” and “Fuel” (sample lyric: “Fuel is pumping engines / Burning hard, loose and clean / And I burn, churning my direction / Quench my thirst with gasoline.”) aim to show that sustainable transportation in heavy-duty trucking is possible on European highways dotted with alternative-fuelling stations.

But the trucks’ limitations and the workarounds the band’s logistics providers are undertaking on the meticulously-planned 7,200-mile journey winding through the continent from Sweden to Spain also illustrate how far trucking is from using cleaner fuels in regular operations.

“You have limited options because of the lack of the infrastructure,” said Natasha Highcroft, a director of Suffolk, U.K.-based Transam Trucking, which provides logistics for Metallica and other bands. “We use alternative fuels as and when we can, as much as possible, but until the infrastructure is there it’s very difficult.”

The trucks run on natural gas, vegetable oil, electricity and hydrogen fuel cells, and will be hauling giant video screens, lighting and instruments across nine countries.

The workhorses of Metallica’s tour will be 10 heavy-duty trucks powered by renewable natural gas—such as methane from landfills—and four heavy-duty trucks running on biodiesel or hydrogenated vegetable oil. The trucks, dramatically decked out in Metallica’s fierce logo, can travel about 1,000 miles between refuelling.

Both fuels provide a significant reduction in emissions compared with regular diesel, although emissions experts say they aren’t nearly as clean as battery-electric or hydrogen fuel cell technologies.

The tour was due to kick off this week in Munich, Germany, and over the next two months will cover the continent from Italy and Spain in southern Europe to Denmark and Norway. The longest journey between shows, from Warsaw to Madrid, covers almost 1,800 miles.

Iveco, which is providing the eco-friendly trucks for Metallica’s tour, makes both battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell big-rig engines, the types that governments in Europe and the U.S. are trying to press on truckers as soon as possible. But because of the lack of charging and fuelling stations on the long legs between gigs, the battery-electric and hydrogen trucks will be mostly for promotional use at concerts, said Gerrit Marx , chief executive of the Italian truck maker.

Marx said Iveco wants to highlight that renewable natural gas and hydrogenated vegetable oil are “more available and ready” than batteries and hydrogen while also being “way better than fossil diesel.”

Europe has hundreds of liquefied natural gas and hydrogenated vegetable oil, or HVO, refuelling stations. A representative for British energy major Shell , which is working with Iveco on the tour, said Metallica’s low-carbon journey wouldn’t have been possible even a couple of years ago.

Shell says its customers can access HVO in five European countries and renewable natural gas in Germany and in the Netherlands. That means that when low-carbon options aren’t available, the Iveco trucks will be fuelled with regular LNG and the HVO trucks will be fuelled with regular diesel.

A Shell representative said the Metallica tour will buy carbon credits to offset “unavoidable emissions“ generated by the low-emission trucks.

U.S. companies are also using renewable natural gas and biodiesel to reduce carbon emissions. But trucking specialists say the fuels aren’t available in sufficient quantities to power the world’s fleets, which is why regulators are pushing battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Trucking executives say the costs of operating those technologies are double or triple those of diesel and that they aren’t workable in a highly-competitive, low-margin industry like trucking.

Lars Stenqvist , chief technology officer at truck maker Volvo Group , said it is important that high-profile performers like Metallica amplify the capabilities of sustainable fuels.

Truckers will only adopt the technology when customers demand it, he said, so “This is music to my ears.”



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How the Middle East Became the Latest ‘Gold Rush’ in Marketing

The Middle East is set to be the fastest-growing marketing region in the world, driven by momentum in countries such as Saudi Arabia

By MEGAN GRAHAM
Tue, Jun 18, 2024 5 min

Saudi Arabia’s fledgling advertising industry and continued growth in the sector in the United Arab Emirates are helping to make the marketing business in the Middle East the fastest-growing in the world.

Ad spending in the Middle East is projected to increase 8.1% to $6.6 billion this year, up from 3.5% last year, according to advertising research firm WARC.

That expansion is building from a much smaller base than in many other ad markets. The Netherlands alone will generate $6 billion in ad spending in 2024, up about 2.3%, WARC said. But it is also enough to outpace every other region in 2024, the firm said.

“It reminds me almost of the gold rush,” said Reda Raad , chief executive of TBWA\Raad Group, an ad agency based in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, that is part of the U.S.-based ad holding company Omnicom Group . “I don’t think we’re going to see this type of growth again in our lifetime.” TBWA\Raad has won eight new clients over the past year, with an increase in head count of 17% to accommodate the new work, Raad said.

Some international brands have long maintained a presence in the region. PepsiCo has considered the area a strategic market for decades, said Karim Elfiqi , senior vice president and chief marketing officer at PepsiCo Africa, Middle East and South Asia. Sponsorship deals with local stars such as Mohamed Salah , a soccer player from Egypt, “are a testimony of how over time, we have been part of the cultural fabric of the region,” Elfiqi said.

Other major brands have formed a more recent focus on the Middle East. The Lego Group opened a Middle East and Africa headquarters in Dubai in 2019, citing the size of the region’s young population. That office has developed work such as a Ramadan-themed campaign that ran in the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, among other locations.

‘Massive growth’

The Middle East’s ad market has lagged behind regions such as North America and Europe partly because of stricter cultural norms and regulations that affected business, as did a more limited media landscape and economic instability, according to Raad.

But marketing growth in the region is now being driven in part by newfound marketing interest in Saudi Arabia, where ad spending this year is expected to reach $2.1 billion, nearly double its level in 2019, according to WARC. Growth is also coming from the U.A.E., whose ad market is expected to reach $1.7 billion in 2024. Smaller contributors include Qatar and Kuwait.

The landscape has changed now because of economic diversification, increased connectivity and a move into the digital world, leading international brands to enter and invest in campaigns tailored to the region, Raad said.

Four years ago, Saudi Arabia made up a small proportion of business at Lightblue, a creative experience and tech agency based in Dubai. These days, 40% of its business comes from the country, says co-founder David Balfour , who opened an office in Riyadh last month as a result.

“The conversation used to be, ‘We’re going to do this in Dubai.’ Now, it’s ‘We’re going to do this in Dubai—and in Saudi.’” Balfour said. “We’re seeing massive growth in that region.”

There have been speed bumps. As government spending reaches huge levels , Saudi Arabia experienced a rare economic contraction in 2023.

But the country’s efforts to expand its economic pursuits beyond oil have led to the creation of new brands, which are seeking the help of marketing agencies to get the word out.

Marketers in the region are seeking help to stay on-trend in areas such as generative artificial intelligence and social media, said Greg Paull , principal of R3, a consulting firm that helps match advertisers with agencies.

“U.A.E. has been a magnet for the region for 20 years as more investment has come in—but with the new leadership in Saudi since 2017 [when Mohammed bin Salman was named crown prince ], this market has gone through remarkable growth,” Paull said.

Saudi Arabia has faced criticism for its human-rights record under the crown prince, the day-to-day ruler of the kingdom, especially over the 2018 killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the more recent jailing of women’s rights activists.

Mohammed has outlasted the international isolation that followed Khashoggi’s killing, however, and continues to pursue an economic diversification plan dubbed Vision 2030. The country last year unveiled plans for a new international airline called Riyadh Air, is investing billions of dollars to build its tourism and videogame industries, and in March hosted a golf tournament in Jeddah under the auspices of LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed league that has both challenged the PGA Tour and struck a deal to unify with it.

Changing tides

Vision 2030 also calls women’s empowerment a top social priority and seeks to increase the country’s employment rate of women.

Nada Hakeem , CEO and co-founder of Saudi creative agency Wetheloft, said the perceptions of hardships for women in the marketing and advertising industry are outdated and inaccurate.

“As a Saudi woman who founded my company in 2012, I’ve always felt supported by the creative community and the industry as a whole,” Hakeem said. “While every society may have its challenges, I can confidently say that these challenges have not hindered our growth.”

A progression of new laws, policies and incentives are making the industry in Saudi Arabia more inclusive and supportive for women, she added.

In certain parts of the Middle East, “absolutely, it’s still challenging, but they are making the right strides, and they have the right quotas and ambitions in place,” said Rebecca Bezzina , CEO for the EMEA region at R/GA, an agency owned by Interpublic Group of Cos.

“They’ve got wealth, they’ve got world-class ambition, world-class budget. They’re not shy of doing things in the right way,” Bezzina added, speaking of the region overall. “But they still have a talent shortage, especially from a creative and design and product point of view. So often what we’ve found our success has been that they’ve come to us and said, ‘Oh, we want a world-class agency to help us launch this new venture or do this new brand.’”

R/GA said it sees 69% more requests for agency work from marketers in the region today than it did five years ago. It recently handled a brand redesign for Banque Saudi Fransi, which wanted to reaffirm its Saudi roots with a modern identity, and created Weyay, the brand for a new digital bank from the National Bank of Kuwait.

The agency hasn’t notably increased its regional workforce, but it has made changes to facilitate working across Europe and the Middle East.

Other Western players are making moves to capture a piece of the growth. Advertising giant WPP has long worked in Saudi Arabia through units such as Ogilvy and GroupM, but in 2021 established a joint venture with a local company to create ICG Saudi Arabia, a communications and media company based in Saudi Arabia. Ad holding company Stagwell opened new offices for its media agency Assembly in Riyadh in 2021 and in Cairo in 2022.

Regional hospitality

Some executives said certain facets of business dealings in the Middle East are different than in other parts of the world.

Bertrand Morin, a group account director for R/GA who is based in London and works often with Middle Eastern clients, said he spends much more time speaking about personal lives and families with those clients than those in the U.K. or U.S. He has been invited to Middle Eastern clients’ homes to join their families for dinner, something that has never happened with clients elsewhere.

But others say it can feel surprisingly familiar.

Balfour, the Lightblue co-founder, said he was struck by the number of ad-agency workers recently having dinner at the Riyadh location of steakhouse chain Beefbar, and the scene’s similarity to far-off locations.

“The staff are from everywhere in the world. The service and the food is unbelievable. There’s a DJ playing,” Balfour said. “Apart from not having alcohol, you could be anywhere in the world.”

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