Amazing, isn't it, that the car sector spent £31 million on
posters last year but, VW aside, most of it was rubbish? Perhaps it's
because TV is usually seen as the lead medium from which posters must
dutifully take their lead. Perhaps, too, the growth of pan-European TV
executions leads to a dumbing down of the creative process because
locally the client and agency spend too much energy warding off
excursions into the UK market by some Johnny Foreigner colleague.
Sitting in a traffic-jam on the Hammersmith roundabout recently, fresh
from the Campaign Poster Awards judging, I began pondering why many of
the posters there were, if not rubbish, certainly forgettable. Vogue,
Vauxhall, Honda, Jazz FM, some indecipherable financial services
shockers ... none of them provoked that reaction of astonishment that
good posters can do.
In fact, the last time I was truly blown away by a poster campaign was
more than a year ago and, I cheerfully admit, it had a lot to do with
the fact that I had just had a baby. The Weetabix poster by Lowe Lintas,
showing a baby using building blocks to spell the word paediatrician,
was the last poster to intrigue me in that split-second way that
posters, if they are any good, always do.
So, putting aside the "x" factor that all outstanding creative work has
in common but which we can never define, what would the components of a
good poster be? A good poster is not overcrowded, carries legible copy
and stands out from its surroundings. Strong and appropriate use of
colour would also be important, as would the strength of branding.
Humour can also be important in a medium with a long tradition of
Surprisingly, perhaps, since one might expect the ad community to feel
it does not need guidance on these blindingly obvious points, the More
Group's Adshel brand is launching a research service that will assess
the effectiveness of creative treatments on outdoor. A few years ago,
when putting together a sensible billboard plan was more by guess than
any in the poster industry would care to admit, this would have been
unthinkable. These days, the consolidation of media ownership in outdoor
means that posters are easier to buy, sell and plan than ever before. So
with outdoor trumpeting its position as the 8 per cent medium, now is
the time to take the issue of creativity seriously.
Years ago, Maiden Outdoor trod the same path by asking David Abbott to
isolate the common creative elements in poster campaigns that had
performed best in research. More's initiative (and I'll bet it has
something to do with its chief executive, Stevie Spring, having her
roots in the creative agency scene) strikes me as an excellent way for
poster contractors to demonstrate that they are more than just de facto
And if it leads to better poster advertising, then it will have done
everybody a tremendous service.
- News, p7.