CAMPAIGN REPORT ON OUTDOOR & AMBIENT: Posters: The Future - Posters that bark at pedestrians and ’smart’ ads that know when they need fixing are two examples of the innovations shaking the poster world

The reason Alfred Leete’s iconic ’Your Country Needs You!’ poster remains so powerful - apart from the stirring slogan - is that Lord Kitchener’s piercing eyes appear to be following you around. Of course, this is a carefully contrived optical illusion that is achieved by the skill of the artist. But that was 1914. Today, if you were after a similar effect, you’d be more literal about it - you’d make the eyes move for real.

The reason Alfred Leete’s iconic ’Your Country Needs You!’ poster

remains so powerful - apart from the stirring slogan - is that Lord

Kitchener’s piercing eyes appear to be following you around. Of course,

this is a carefully contrived optical illusion that is achieved by the

skill of the artist. But that was 1914. Today, if you were after a

similar effect, you’d be more literal about it - you’d make the eyes

move for real.



In fact, a recent six-sheet London Underground poster for Boots

Opticians did just that. Devised by Grey, it touted the chemist’s range

of coloured contact lenses using an ultra-thin scrolling mechanism that

sits just behind the front sheet of the poster to make a large pair of

eyes change colour at intervals of a few seconds. This is just one of a

host of innovations that looks set to revolutionise poster advertising

over the coming months.



They may not be singing yet, but they will certainly be dancing in the

very near future.



Much of the recent spate of techno-creativity has already been sampled

on Adshels: a poster for 101 Dalmations that barked as people walked

past it; a typically cheeky Lynx poster featuring a saucy winking woman;

an Aero poster that blew soap bubbles; a Nationwide football sponsorship

poster that wafted the alien smell of freshly mown grass at hardened

urban commuters; a Virgin Radio poster that played rock music.



For the most part, these gizmotic posters were one-offs and six-sheet in

scale. The difference now is that similar - or even improved -

technology can be applied more widely and on a far bigger canvas. Don’t

expect an oppressive, advertising-overloaded Bladerunner cityscape quite

yet - our conscientious friends in local government will protect us from

that - but you can bank on a few more animated distractions as you

grapple with public transport.



’Movement is extremely important,’ Julie France, the sales and marketing

director of the poster contractor The More Group, agrees. ’It draws your

eye to the images. Technological developments are about to change the

face of posters and most of these are about making them move.’ Before

long, she predicts, giant LED screens will be popping up all over major

urban connurbations, offering advertisers the opportunity to create what

amounts to ’TV ads without the sound’.



Movement will come in several shapes, forms and sizes. Possibilities

include scrolling 48-sheet posters, projection posters, ’electronic ink’

that will allow changes to be made to posters via ISDN lines - extremely

useful for changing prices or last minute offers, and ’lenticular’

posters that change according to the angle at which they are viewed.

Lenticular posters are particularly effective on bus sides as they

appear to metamorphose as vehicles steam by. A recent application for

Fila featured the footballer Ian Wright when he was in West Ham kit

magically transforming into Ian Wright the chatshow host clad in a

dapper suit.



Even the much maligned vertical ’wave’ posters, which have a habit of

jamming half way between executions - resulting in unfortunate hybrids

such as Ken Livingstone’s head on Caprice’s body or slogans such as ’Go

to work on a Heineken’ - are being dragged into the 21st century.



Each one will be fitted with its own diagnostic kit which will bleep a

’come fix me’ message back to head office when things go

pear-shaped.



Night lighting will also start playing a more important role in the

poster world. New, sophisticated systems operate from the bottom rather

than the top of the poster image, bringing a more even light across the

image and therefore focusing viewers’ attention on the poster rather

than the beams of the lights themselves. It will also be possible to

light bus-side posters thanks to a new paper that can carry an electric

charge.



’Nothing has changed for 300-odd years but now everything is going

bananas,’ Mike Baker, the marketing director of the transport

advertising specialist TDI, observes. ’It gives the creative sector the

opportunity to produce something a bit different.’



New materials and printing technologies are allowing posters to appear

where posters have never gone before. Advertising on the London

Underground is, not surprisingly, stringently regulated for fire

hazards, but flame retardant vinyls such as PET have proved themselves

safe.



Baker sees the opportunity for posters on the sides of tube carriages,

which pull dramatically into Underground stations and offer the

possibility of long, snaking messages. Of course, they will have to

compete with the forthcoming cross-track projection posters which will

have you thinking you’ve mistakenly walked into a cinema.



’It’s what we call Poster Plus,’ says Ken Hall, the technical director

for DHJ Media, the Swedish company behind the explosion of projection

posters we can expect to see rolling out across London’s Underground

network and airports over the next year or so. ’You can do anything from

a static image to full-motion video without sound, but we’ve found the

most effective route is simple animation based on existing posters. I’m

sure creatives will have their own ideas.’



Elsewhere on the tube, printing directly on to steel has allowed

escalator hoardings that are put up when escalators need repairs to

become temporary poster sites, a fact that was exploited by Rainey Kelly

Campbell Roalfe/AR on behalf of Virgin Mobile. Moving from ’cold’ purple

at the bottom to ’v.hot’ red at the top of the main escalator at

Tottenham Court Road tube station, the 30-metre ad was one of the

largest subterranean ads in the world.



This is all very well, but are these new animals still posters? Can we

judge them alongside Kitchener, Benson & Hedges and The Economist? ’Many

don’t involve paper and glue or even printing,’ Baker admits. ’If

anything, the cross-track projections have more in common with TV. But

they are bought and sold and traded by poster people and the traditional

formats are still a convenient yardstick.’ What about the dangers of

overkill?



’There were more posters in the Underground at the turn of the century

than there are now,’ Baker says. ’It would be a very grey place without

them.’



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