A BIG Awards Promotion: BIGging up British Outdoor

I have never subscribed to the argument that "advertising is art", but posters are probably as close to art as it gets. (They even provide a nice frame for your idea.)

Who could deny that those brilliant campaigns for Benson & Hedges or Silk Cut would look as at home on the walls of an art gallery as they would on the side of the Cromwell Road?

I've always loved posters. Not just because they are a true test of an idea but also because of their very public nature. Wonderbra's "hello boys" would never have made as much of an impact had it only stayed in the privacy of a magazine spread.

And while on the subject of big tits, politicians have often brilliantly exploited the power of the poster. I remember attending the unveiling of a poster for the Labour Party a few years back, with the sole intention of getting the poster on to the front pages of the next day's newspapers. It did. Now would this have happened with a press ad?

I read recently that outdoor is in revenue crisis, down this first quarter by 19 per cent, so next year's General Election can't come soon enough for the outdoor industry.

But there isn't just a crisis in revenue in outdoor, there's also a crisis in creativity. Is this the fault of agencies, or the advertisers?

Because posters, these days, so often seem to be an afterthought. Very rarely do you get a brief solely for a poster. It's much more likely to be: can you do a press ad that also works as a poster please?

And, of course, a lot of them do that well. But where are the advertisers hell-bent on dominating the outdoor world both in spend and in creativity? There were plenty of them in the past.

I've already mentioned Wonderbra (£18 million of free publicity for a £33,000 spend, apparently). Then there was Nike's campaign out of Simons Palmer in the 90s that used two of the best headlines ever written. Remember them? "Behind every great goalkeeper there's a ball from Ian Wright" and "66 was a great year for English football. Eric was born."

And then, of course, there's The Economist. From its first execution in 1989 ("management trainee") to later ads such as "keyhole", "shredder" and "jigsaw piece", the magazine and Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO proved how posters could build a brand, increase sales and win a million awards at the same time.

And whatever happened to the special-build poster? You know, the poster where you glue a car to it with Araldite. Or the one where you wrap a poster in red tape to show how London would be run by Whitehall. Or the poster printed on litmus paper to show the effects of acid rain.

The depressing thing about this piece, is that every poster I have mentioned was written in the 80s and 90s.

The only recent example I could think of didn't even come from this country.

It was for HBO, called "voyeur", from BBDO New York. And outdoor was the lead creative piece in this integrated campaign, which won the Grand Prix in Outdoor at Cannes last year as well as the Promo Grand Prix and a gold in Cyber.

It proved how relevant the outdoor business still is in this day and age and that the potential for truly groundbreaking creative is still there.

It was almost art.

- For more info and to enter the BIG awards, visit campaignbigawards.com


Petersham Nurseries restaurant. My favourite restaurant by a mile set in, basically, a posh garden centre. But do try to avoid going through the shop after a boozy lunch, as you are likely to end up doubling your bill.

Berry Bros and Rudd. One of the most forward-thinking wine shops in the world and not as stuffy as you would think. Which probably explains why it's been around for more than 300 years.

Borough Market. Thank God I don't live too near to it as I would spend every moment possible buying up stuff from Brindisa, The Ginger Pig, Monmouth Coffee Company et al.

Arsenal. Not exactly British, I know, but I love them nevertheless.

The Concorde Room, Terminal 5. When I have tired of the above, there is no better place from where to leave the country.