BIGging up British - Outdoor

Would David Cameron's forehead be as famous without the power of posters? For better or worse, it was talked about on TV, radio, the internet and even mentioned in the first leadership debate.

On the other side of the Atlantic, there was another political poster boy in the shape of Obama. He managed to get this message down to just one word: HOPE.

Posters have the power to reach everyone, and there's something about the public nature of them that makes them more provocative. Always on display, they can be pointed at but can't be hidden away inside a closed magazine. The message is naked and brazen on the street, whether towering over a city centre or waiting for you just outside a shop. Or just as you step off a bus. The ever-continuing growth in traffic-jams must have increased dwell times.

But the outdoor medium shouldn't be pigeon-holed as a political propaganda tool. Products as diverse as soft drinks, cars and department stores have hit home with strong outdoor presence in recent years and have built relationships with consumers.

In today's climate of channel diversity and niche targeting, the poster is unashamedly democratic. One bold message that's the same whoever's looking at it. This forces clarity of message and confidence; forces brands to say what they stand for and not twist and turn depending on who they are talking to.

It is also a medium that unites the nation in the way TV used to do. A national poster campaign can truly be seen by everyone, commented on by everyone and discussed by everyone. The poster still needs to be simple but is no longer restricted by the single static image.

Technology is at the forefront of most outdoor activity. Gone are the old, clunky revolving sites. Now we can have film as outdoor. Short animation sequences, live action, moving typography. Sites can also be updated continuously. It almost seems antiquated to see static escalator panels now - and with the rise of mobile, posters can be interactive. They can be a portal to bigger and more enriching experiences.

We're all in the process of learning how to use these liberating tools to best effect and there are lots of clearer ideas waiting to be had.

Are advertisers currently using the power of outdoor in the best way possible? I don't think so. Too many examples break the rules of what makes a good outdoor ad. Too many messages. Too complicated. Too much information is crammed in. Technology is used to confuse rather than excite.

All too often, outdoor is used as simply a reminder of the TV - what a missed opportunity. The best examples have a consistency of idea rather than a consistency of image. The great examples from the past weren't slaves to TV but expressed the idea in a clear and simple statement.

All too often, branding is weak.

Outdoor can achieve a lot if only we realise its potential and limitations. Brands should work more closely with the medium by choosing messages carefully and embracing simplicity.

The best examples will always stand out.

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