Outdoor Advertising

Go Play Outside: Exploring Out-of-home Opportunities in the Digital Age

It only takes a few days of nice spring weather to make everyone excited to go out and enjoy the sun. And since it is our job as marketers to connect with people on their own terms, it makes sense to consider using outdoor advertising to reach them… outdoors.

But we’re not talking about the out-of-home of 50, 25 or even 10 years ago — although some of it made a major impact on our industry. Rather, we want to explore out-of home as it is today, in the digital age, with all of the new challenges and opportunities that come with it.

In this article, we look at examples of successful campaigns built around an outdoor presence, and identify lessons and best practices that can be applied to brands of any size and in any industry. Hopefully, it will inspire you to go play outside too!

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  1. Put the audience front and centre

Apple is no stranger to creating remarkable out-of-home. But for its latest iPhone 6 campaign, the company turned the creative reins over to its customers, crowdsourcing photos from 162 iPhone 6 users around the world to put them on billboards.

In all, the campaign featured more than 10,000 installations in 73 cities in 25 countries. Apple called it “the largest mobile photography gallery in history.” Of note, there were no products featured in any of the executions.

Given the bold approach, it is no surprise that the Shot on iPhone campaign won Cannes Lions 2015 Grand Prix. Not only did the massive outdoor initiative reach up to 90% of people in the cities with installations — it made it clear to the audience that the brand belongs to them.

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  1. When everyone is zigging, zag

“Never stop riding,” read the colourful posters of this outdoor campaign promoting the 24-hour availability and newly automated system of the Buenos Aires public bikes.

Based on a seemingly simple idea, the unexpected execution is what makes this playful creative work so well. It pairs a hand drawn typeface with humourous illustrations representing bicycle wheels as unlikely partners in constant pursuit — including a squirrel chasing a chestnut and a baby chasing a breast.

While other billboards may check the usual boxes for clarity of concept and legibility, this is in a league of its own when it comes to standing out and getting a reaction. It’s proof that sometimes you have to take risks to be rewarded.

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  1. Focus on a message that matters

Out-of-home is not limited to billboards. At the Paris Marathon in April, a Gambian woman named Siabatou Sanneh made headlines worldwide by walking the course with a 44-pound water container on her head to raise awareness about the difficulties African women face in accessing clean drinking water.

With the part experiential and part outdoor advertising stunt, Water For Africa opted to show a reality rather than simply tell people about it. And to leave the discussion to those who experienced it — including members of the media in attendance to cover the sporting event and who shared the story around the globe.

In many ways, the kind of mass reaction this campaign created is only possible when a marketing message is amplified by a public platform as visible as out-of-home. But then again, if that core message doesn’t strike a chord with audiences, then visibility in itself is never enough.

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  1. Provide a real solution to a real problem

Rather than create typical billboards, IBM’s People for Smarter Cities campaign aimed to solve a problem they saw for city dwellers. The company rolled out an innovative outdoor campaign, where message boards doubled as benches, bus shelters and stair ramps.

Instead of interrupting the consumer’s day, this initiative allowed IBM to embark on a two-way interaction with them. And so the company was able to distinguish itself as a smart problem solver in both its industry and the fast moving world around it.

The installations took home Grand Prix at Cannes 2013 Outdoor Lions, and had a lasting impact online after a case study video went viral — showing that people are not only receptive to this kind of marketing, but beginning to expect it from brands.

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  1. Pair traditional and digital for new experiences

To shake up the outdoor marketing landscape, Sprite set up the first ever talking billboard to entertain traffic at a busy Kenyan intersection, all as part of the Bill the Billboard campaign.

Bill the Billboard’s personality was brought to life through real time comments to nearby commuters, sharing facts, jokes and opinions in a funny and self-deprecating tone. This approach was also extended to the way the campaign’s media placement period ended, with a person coming down to “turn off” the billboard as passers-by witnessed his humorous last words.

Sticking to its “Obey you” mantra, Sprite wrote its own rules for this cleverly refreshing out-of-home execution. And in the end, this goes to show that when spun on its head, even a media as traditional as the billboard offers new opportunities for innovation.

Did these campaigns leave you feeling inspired? We would love to chat about outdoor advertising possibilities for your brand. Get in with us touch today!

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