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Open canvas: creative you just can't ignore

Two experts pick their favourite out of home campaigns and explain why their chosen work makes the most of the medium

Paul Jordan, co-executive creative director, Mcgarrybowen

Sometimes we just need to recognise the power of the product and the platform, then get the hell out of the way.

I love love love the Coca-Cola screens illuminating Piccadilly Circus right now.

I won’t call them ads, because they’re not. Not really. Not ads in the way we think of them – jaw-dropping headlines and traffic-jamming visuals.

No, these screens do something much simpler. Much more effective. They instantly make me want to buy a Coke. And I’m a cynical old adman who doesn’t particularly like Coke.

Picture it. A chilly Wednesday night. Stepping out of a restaurant at the bottom of Regent Street. Hugging a friend goodbye and BLAM! There it was, over his shoulder. A gigantic, slow-motion Coke cap flying off a bottle; that brown fizzy stuff gloriously cascading into a glass. I couldn’t work it out. Full up on London’s finest dining and now all I could think was "I want a Coke."

Was it nostalgia for the red and white of the world’s most iconic brand? The warm glow lighting up a cold night? All I know is that, some-how, this combination of logos and pack shots worked its magic on me and raced straight to my amygdala as if I’d just necked a can of the stuff.

There was no smart wordplay or visual trickery and that was its strength. When we write ads for OOH we have this rule; nine words or less for a headline. But I don’t think these Coke ads even have words. They’re that simple; that impactful. 

And that’s the point. A 4K screen the size of a tennis court gives you impact. Lighting up Piccadilly Circus gives you impact. The red and white of the world’s most famous brand has impact.

Sometimes we just need to recognise the power of the product and the platform, then get the hell out of the way.

Apple gets this. Those posters wrapping whole office buildings with the latest iPhone on them aren’t really ads either, but they work in the same way. I want what they’re selling. But you can only get away with this in large-format OOH – anywhere else, any smaller, and it’s just a bit boring.

Sarah Hardcastle, creative, Mr President

In the age of the smartphone it’s easy to only see the things we want to see. From newsfeeds that show us only the stuff we like to clicking ‘skip’ on YouTube, consumers have never had more control over messages that are shared with them.

But what about the messages nobody wants to see – or, worse, can’t see at all?

In Finland, 25,000 cases of domestic violence are reported to the police every year. That’s 70 acts of violence a day, with 88% taking place after dark, out of sight, unnoticed.

It’s this alarming statistic that sits behind the thinking of this reactive campaign for the Helsinki Police department, a partnership between JCDecaux and TBWA. 

Using location data collected when a report is made, they were able to target the 15 closest OOH units to the crime with a powerful poster campaign the very next day. The posters at first appear to be straightforward ads for a kitchen or beauty brand but, once night falls, a black-light transforms the image to reveal the disturbing truth taking place behind closed doors.

This hyper-local approach meant that the neighbours of victims would be faced with the stark reality of the problem on their own street, making the messaging "You can’t hide the signs of violence" all the more poignant by placing it in spots that are hard to ignore.

The beauty and impact of this idea is in using targeted OOH, as by its very nature it can’t be skipped, scrolled past or blocked. It’s a smart strategy that plays on the medium’s strengths in a bold, reactive way, made all the more effective when combined with the eye-catching creative. 

At Mr President, we’re firm believers in bring-ing media and creative together like this, and I can imagine how implementing the idea into digital OOH could make it even more powerful, (for example) by incorporating street names or even the number of calls made in that location. 

Many brands are using the technology in this way already – British Airways with its "#lookup" activity, for one. But however it evolves, I hope this campaign continues to become more and more impactful – until it won’t be needed at all. 

OUT OF HOME: MORE RELEVANT THAN EVER 

Despite the boom in online Christmas shopping, over 80% of sales in this period still take place in stores (1) and a fifth of shoppers leave gift buying to the last minute (2). During the countdown to Christmas, brands can use OOH’s huge storytelling and location-based potential to target shoppers.

• A consumer’s mindset and response to OOH changes, depending on why they are in a given environment. Combined with OOH serving as a last window of influence before purchase, consumers are more conscious of OOH on the high street. Brands can use this to push messages near shops. These can inspire impulse purchases, equating to an extra £1.2bn a year during this period (3).

• Christmas copy drives engagement and provides the ideal opportunity for creativity when storytelling, as 76% of people describe the festive season as an "exciting" time (4), resulting in relevant OOH creative increasing recall.

• With advances in DOOH and dynamic ad-serving, brands can bring storytelling to life by optimising content in real-time to deliver contextually relevant campaigns.

Emily Coe, head of client strategy, Posterscope UK

(1) Retail Sales, Great Britain (ONS)
(2) Exterion Media Work Shop Play (Jan 2017)
(3) Columino Research
(4) Posterscope OCS insight