Creating a sign for an outdoor space is a tough job. It needs to be designed to catch a person’s attention quickly. Drivers and passengers are only going to see it for a few seconds – unless they are caught in a traffic jam. Billboards must be memorable and need to be read quickly and easily while being passed at a high speed. These signs usually contain strong images with little text. Some smart and savvy advertisers are getting this very right by using the location in which their advert is placed to convey extra elements.
Best in the business
At the Cannes Lions awards for outdoor and billboard advertising, a number of ads were recognised for their ingenuity in using their environments to their advantages.
One of the winning campaigns was created by Ogilvy & Mather in Paris for IMB. It consisted of three billboards which functioned as a bench, shelter and ramp and served to provide small improvements to a city as a metaphor for the company’s efforts to make cities smarter using technology.
Another campaign used adult and baby portraits – who looked remarkably similar – on opposite sides of a train platform so it appeared the two were staring at each other.
A Puerto Rico-based agency used photographs of the final meals of five innocent men who were executed in the US on cafeteria trays. This was used to build opposition to the death penalty.
Ogilvy & Mather in Argentina used the old wrecks of crashed cars as highway safety signs. These were found to have far more impact than traditional road signs. According to the campaign: “All violations decreased by 25 percent on Interstate Highway 36, the most busy of the area.”
Standing out in the crowd
Bored Panda rounded up 33 of the most clever and creative billboard ads. The first on its list was for a paint company’s line of natural finish colours. It showed a painter adding blue paint – the exact shade of the surrounding sky – to the billboard.
In the second, for tv show Law & Order, a man appears to be about to stab another by using the sign’s own light fixture which hangs above them.
The Economist, in the third advert, uses a sign featuring a giant lightbulb. As pedestrians walk underneath the sign, the bulb lights up.
In this roundup, a number of billboards advertising different products used rain to change their images. A woman’s shirt became translucent, mascara started to run down a model’s cheeks, and blood began to run from a toddler’s face to illustrate the effect of road safety during storms.
Other adverts, featured on Hongkiat’s roundup of clever ads, showed road users the impact of speed. One, with the tagline “Tailgating isn’t worth it”, showed a car crashing into the back of a truck with the billboard crumpled up between the two vehicles. Another showed the speed at which drivers were travelling next to the words “Days in hospital bed”.
All of these examples show that the best outdoor advertising need a little bit of creativity and out of the box thinking for the most memorable impact.