OUTDOOR AND AMBIENT: THE CREATIVE TRINITY

Three creative directors from London, Manchester and Edinburgh take a look at the outdoor and ambient advertising on the drive between their home and their agency.

LONDON: Fcuk, Ken - Matt Eastwood is the creative director of M&C Saatchi

I drive from East London to Soho. My journey used to take 38 minutes. Now, thanks to Ken Livingstone, it takes 17 minutes. It's a crying shame that congestion charges have destroyed London's outdoor advertising. Cars are moving too damn fast for drivers to register outdoor sites. There seems to be no other way to explain why all the traditionally creative advertisers have simply taken down their posters? Is it just a coincidence that the last ever Silk Cut poster came down on 14 February, three days before the congestion charge came into force? Is it just a fluke that the WH Smith 96-sheets are now nowhere to be seen? And where are The Economist posters? Or PlayStation? It seems agencies have just given up and decided to run ads for Timotei and Jupiter Financing. And don't even talk to me about buses. They're now moving so fast, we'll probably never see a Withoutabix poster again. It's tragic.

But surely, there must be a way to fight back. Can we really allow the Mayor of London to determine the quality of outdoor advertising? Perhaps if we just get back to basics. Brutally simple posters that work, no matter how fast you drive past. Posters so incredibly single-minded that you can take in the message, even as the bus speeds by at 30 miles an hour.

And let's bring back the great ambient ideas such as britart.com or the rats with backpacks for Kiss FM. Come on Trevor, you lead the charge.

Fcuk, Ken. Let's make sure the Old Street roundabout features more than bland Gap posters repeated four times. Surely Land Rover has another brutally simple, visually led campaign searching for the great outdoors. And what about all those Adshels being sullied by posters for washing powder? Come on Heinz, you must be able to squeeze one more out of the bottle. Together we can fight this aberration. Simple visuals and succinct headlines.

Let's show Ken Livingstone that it takes more than congestion charges to slow us down.

MANCHESTER: Knob gags and bed sheets - Danny Brooke-Taylor is the creative director of BDH/TBWA

I can't remember any outdoor or ambient advertising from my journey to work. That's because I, like everybody else, have other things to think about. It's scientifically proven (probably) that our brains would explode if we absorbed every message that's thrown our way. Only relevant messages seem to stick.

I remember going to a poxy Bulgarian ski resort. I was halfway up a mountain hanging from a button lift when it decided to pack in. After 25 minutes of freezing my nuts off, I looked down at the handle. There was a picture of a mug of hot chocolate. Hot, steamy and delicious. At that particular moment in time, there was nothing in the world I wanted more than one of those babies. It was a classic case of right time, right place, right product.

VW knew this when they promoted the fuel economy of the Golf on petrol pumps. So did Umbro when they put stickers on anything that resembled a football goal. They got it right, but so many people get it wrong. You can't just put a knob gag poster above a urinal and expect to sell something anymore.

Decades ago it was a doddle, of course. Outdoor and ambient was the only way to flog anything. No need for "cut-through" when a big Bovril logo painted on the side of a building would do the trick. That's until someone wearing a "humorous" tie and shiny shoes said: "I know! Let's get people to pay for this space." We all woke up the next day and, suddenly, there were millions of messages. And we learned how to ignore them all on the way to work.

Well, nearly all of them. "Happy 40th Birthday Joanne." I don't know who she is but there's a spray-painted bed sheet hanging from the railway bridge near my house. Of the 17-gazillion messages she'll see today, I hope for the sake of our industry it's not the only one she remembers.

EDINBURGH: More blandscape than brandscape - Andrew Lindsay is the creative director of The Union

Hame (home) is located in the small town of Linlithgow some 18 miles west of Edinburgh. From there, I meander between the notches of Scotland's beautiful central belt before arriving in Edinburgh. So plenty of opportunities then to come across Britain's finest in the outdoor department.

The reality, unfortunately, fell somewhat short of my expectations. Opportunities had not been seized but lazily tossed away. Maybe it's a quiet time for this corner of our black art or, as some suspect, ambient media is merely for the attention of the awards jury.

There were no surprises. Backs of lorries, pylons, bridges, roundabouts, skips, Christ, there were even sheep that were crying out to be shoved into the media mix. And some elderly looking Highland cattle.

But the only real ambient message I could find was a poster pinned to a tree outside Bristo Parish Church that read: "Jesus healer of broken hearts." Whose hearts wasn't immediately clear.

So I took a slight detour in the hope of finding some half-decent outdoor instead.

I was impressed with the simple branding of a Mars poster and also an Adidas ad featuring a nude black athlete with a burning fuse sticking out of his trainer. That would make me run fast but only away from the shoes.

Our biggest client is a large financial institution so I'm drawn to this area (research shows I'm probably the only person who is). Two posters caught my eye. First, a simple AA poster featuring the top of a bloke's head with the headline: "I'm a bit short, can you help?" It was for personal loans and managed to avoid the endless legal that smothers much of the work in this sector. The other ad was smothered by endless legal. It was for ISIS and their ISA. At least I think it was. But as it was just wall-to-wall tiny type, it's anyone's guess. I'm sure the client liked it though.

And that is what I saw on my way to work. More blandscape than brandscape.

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