CLOSE-UP: What's the difference between press and posters?

Two creative teams discuss the blurring of the boundary between the two ad formats.


Can a good press ad make a good poster? It's a conundrum that doesn't appear to have conundrummed last year's Campaign Press or Poster Award juries too much. They both gave the gold award to the same ad, "hippos".

Nor did it trouble the respective juries at D&AD. Merrydown won a silver Pencil in both disciplines (there must have been a few sore necks on that poster jury).

Different media, different juries, same results. And who are we to argue with them? Of course a good poster can make a good press ad. And of course a good press ad can make a good poster.

"Wedding", "shredder", "skid marks" - they're all good posters, good press ads and vice versa. Why? Because they're simple and simple translates. Simple, quite simply, is god.

It didn't used to be like this. Simple didn't used to be god - Tim Delaney did. But the gospel according to the man in the stolen shoes is starting to look more than a little Old Testament.

In the past, things were different - well, press ads were different.

They didn't need to be simple, they didn't need to be visually led and they didn't need to be five words or fewer (or is it seven?). In short, they didn't need to be like posters because, in the past, consumers had fewer ads to consume and more time to consume them.

But the past doesn't matter in advertising, only the present. And in the present, press ads are given the same amount of time by consumers as posters. Watch someone reading a newspaper or magazine on the tube.

They'll show just how long you've got to make an impact.

So if you want to write, be a writer - don't write 500 words about a pair of moccasins. People don't want to know about self-oiling rawhide laces any more and if they do, they'll go to the website.

But hey, it's not just consumers who have muddied the print gene pool.

Globalisation and Cannes have got a lot to answer for too. Everyone wants a gold Lion these days. And, as we all know, when it comes to le crunch and you're relying on those votes from the honchos at DDB Lagos and Ogilvy & Mather Azerbaijan, you had better make sure you speak to them in Adsperanto (the international ad language). No, not English. You speakee in pictures.

And if you're fluent, Fat Global Wallet Inc will be on the phone wanting to talk Turkey (and Japan, Qatar, Equatorial Guinea, etc) - a call most agencies can't resist.

As a result, both press ads and posters have become one - the "proster", as Trevor Beattie so aptly coined it last year. That adnomaly which can be a good press ad, a good poster and vice versa. And if you don't believe us, take a look at some of this year's Campaign Poster Awards nominees.

The chances are, you'll be seeing them again at Campaign Press.

- Mike Boles and Jerry Hollins are a creative team at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R


A lot of the best print ads are posters. A good point, well made, quickly.

The crowded magazine is just as tough an environment to grab people's attention in as the crowded street. You still have to stand out. It takes three seconds to drive past a poster, it takes even less time to turn the page in a paper or magazine.

That doesn't leave much time for words, but surely it's cleverer to write two words than four, and cleverer still to write no words. People know where to go to find out more about a product or brand these days -

Did the "proster" emerge in the 90s, as Trevor Beattie says?

Yes, guess so, if proster means an evolution of a poster into a press ad. Surely, you can never be too quick in making an impact. But it's not two-way traffic. Trev didn't call it the "presster" for a reason. Press ads can't usually become posters. It's easy to think you can get away with more when a press brief lands on your desk. But can you? Isn't it better to think of press ads like posters. You usually end up with a sharper ad.

How much has the Land Rover work transferred into print media? A lot.

Pretty much all the posters have run in three or four corners of the world as press ads. The ads are put on the Land Rover website for the different markets to view and it's a case of "any takers". As long as the ads are simple and hit the right international nerves, then the ads get taken up.

What kind of work tends to work well across both media? Simple. Minimal.

People are ad literate now, we have more licence to give the viewer credit to fill in the last piece themselves. Press ads don't have to be slower.

It's like putting a headline on "hippos": you wouldn't get any more from it.

But that doesn't mean there's no room for words in today's posters and press. The right choice of words can hit you between the eyes in the same way as visuals, like The Economist ads so often do.

Are there any posters that would never translate well into a print environment and vice versa?

Most of the work in last year's Poster Awards could work as press ads (apart from the Special Builds, of course). However, great press ads aren't always great posters. For instance, Volkswagen's "lost dog" ad. Great press ad, not a great poster. Unless you put a row of chairs in front of every poster site.

Ads that rely on body copy obviously aren't too clever on posters, except on the tube where there's a captive audience gagging for a bit of stimulation before the next train. A few years ago, there was a long copy NSPCC ad that nearly got taken down by London Underground because people were clogging up the platform trying to read it. Surely that's a good poster.

- Justin Tindall and Adam Tucker are a creative team at BMP DDB.


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