iPad Mini billboard - AB

ABC/D 27.11.13: Billboards are dead!

I work for a business newspaper, and my office is at the centre of India’s capital city New Delhi. As is the wont with bachelors working in metros, I live in the suburbs. The erstwhile Google Maps tells me that my home and my workplace are 20 kms apart, the drive takes me 40 minutes. As a dipstick exercise in preparation for this post, I counted the number of billboards that lie in my line of vision during this tiresome drive. 43. 43 billboards in a 20 km stretch of road, that’s 2.1 pieces of outdoor advertising for every km I drive. Granted there are actually multiple hoardings at red lights along the way (some places even up to 9), still that’s a lot of advertising to be exposed to.

The truth, however, is that I’ve never noticed them until today!
So, billboards are an ineffective channel of advertising, brand-building?

Everybody, and I mean everybody, is talking about the British Airways #LookUp Interactive Billboard.
THAT is brand buzz!

What’s so special about this billboard?
As British Airways planes fly over the ClearChannel digital outdoor sites laid out along the Heathrow flight path, they trigger advertising creative showing real-time data of that very plane, including destination and flight number. We’re still awaiting more information on how the hoardings actually work. Currently, we’ve seen only one 27-seconder on this.

AND, thanks to this campaign, conversations have swung towards innovative use of outdoors, which is a good thing.

For years, brands have been pasting the same old boring adapted-from-the-print-ad creatives all over town in the hope of catching people’s attention. I don’t have data for return on investment (maybe there is ROI for some), but considering I’ve never noticed any of the 43 billboards on my daily route over the past 18 months, I assume it’s not very high.

Despair not! It’s not as if the advertising community hasn’t innovated on hoardings. They have! Yes. Allow me to share with you some examples.

1. Volkswagen Beetle Juiced Up

Watch the video first.

Watch it!

This out-of-home Augmented Reality campaign to launch the 2012 Beetle ran from September 26 to October 30, 2011 in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. The free app is still available for download at vwjuicedup.ca.

2. McDonald’s Sundial Billboard

McDonald’s installed this ‘sundial’ billboard in Chicago in 2006. Conceptualised by ad agency Leo Burnett, the aluminium replica of McDonald’s arches (4×3.5 feet) cast its shadow on a different breakfast item each hour until noon when it cast an undistorted shadow on a sandwich, signalling lunchtime.

3. University of Engineering & Technology of Peru

University of Engineering and Technology of Peru (UTEC) teamed up with ad agency Mayo DraftFCB to create this unique billboard that turns air humidity into drinking water.The city of Lima, where it was installed, and its surrounding villages get around 0.51 inches of precipitation per year. But, because it lies on the coast of the southern Pacific Ocean, the humidity is about 83%. The billboard generates water from air humidity, and is made up of a reverse osmosis system containing five generators. The ingenious device is capable of producing up to 96 litres of water a day during summer.

4. The Day After Tomorrow

Can you spot the Empire State Building in the background?

In order to promote Roland Emmerich’s 2004 global-warming disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow to Indian audiences, ad agency Contract submerged a billboard in the sea not far from Mumbai. Leaving just the details of the film’s release and venue, the marketing campaign attracted the attention of many a passer by.

5. Absolut Vodka

I wouldn’t mind this studio apartment, would you?

Way back in the year 2000, Absolut transformed an ordinary billboard in Manhattan into a stylish, but cramped, NYC apartment turned on its side — and shaped like an Absolut bottle! All of this wouldn’t have been possible without a little help from their Swedish friends Ikea.

Believe me, our colleagues in the advertising fraternity have churned out many many more campaigns of the like. The 5 I’ve shared are a minuscule part of the entire body of work. If you have any examples you’ve come across that you liked, please feel free to share with me — I would love that.

Since we started this conversation with British Airways, let me end the post with 2 bonus content pieces about the brand!

The trend has caught on. The trend of creating emotional, heart-tugging brand videos that have minimal brand presence and yet huge brand association. Following is one such example:

Some term this a hilarious incident, but it was definitely not a positive one for the brand. Airlines lose luggage, it’s a fact. What do you do about it? Twitter user Hasan Syed (@HVSVN) bought a promoted tweet to complain about British Airways losing his father’s luggage. As far as I know, British Airways has not yet responded to Syed’s promoted tweet. (if you know different, leave a note)

The now-famous tweet by @HVSVN

Published by

Atin Batra

Atin Batra is the Accelerator Lead at blueprint, Swire Properties’ tech focussed co-working space and B2B accelerator in Hong Kong. An ex-entrepreneur, Atin is a digital marketer by profession, startup mentor/connector by passion!

One thought on “ABC/D 27.11.13: Billboards are dead!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *