Tag Archives: OOH

Showing ReSTRAINt In Outdoor Advertising

FX launched their new series THE STRAIN last night to solid critical response and viewer numbers. With a creative force behind the basic cable series of Guillermo del Toro and Carlton Cuse, it certainly deserves a look.  Unfortunately, at least in Los Angeles and New York, that look was forced upon us in the guise of a disgusting worm coming out of an eyeball in large outdoor displays. As has been seen over numerous posts in this blog, outdoor advertising is something to be celebrated when used correctly, but I wish there had been some restraint with this campaign.


Beyond the unsettling nature of the image – and unsettling isn’t always a bad thing when trying to enter the cluttered fray of advertising – the placements were far too many when considering not everyone wants to see something graphic like this.  It hit home for me when my five year-old daughter started questioning why a worm would be coming out of an eyeball. While we’re able to control what our children see on TV and online, it’s not easy when driving around our neighborhoods. And, parents shouldn’t have to be concerned about where they drive to steer clear of disturbing advertising.

A blog entry on MoviePilot was published on the 30th of June stating that FX had called a mea-culpa and was going to take down the advertisements, but as of today (two weeks later) there hasn’t been a noticeable reduction in the outdoor impressions around Los Angeles. The reason probably had a bit to do with cost, but more so with the buzz that was being created and wanting to keep the awareness up until the series premiere. From a business perspective that could be well and good, but from a responsibility one, does it?

Certainly, advertising falls under freedom of speech and there shouldn’t be any censorship of what is displayed and what isn’t.  The problem is, if we as an industry don’t take responsibility or show restraint, others will come in and attempt to do it for us. If the trend keeps moving toward disturbing outdoor advertising and more parents start complaining about having to explain things to their kids before the time that it is reasonable to do so, there will be additional strains that curb creativity and revenue generation.

Los Angeles Billboard Check

Visitors to Los Angeles are always in awe of the number, scale and permutations of billboards across the city. To those who live here, they can often be lost within the urban sprawl. Because of this, its worth checking out some billboards of interest – and the reasons they are compelling.


The buzz surrounding the final season of the series, BREAKING BAD, is deafening. Even those “in the know” folks in LA are plainly not when it comes to this television show.  Is the lead going to live or die? Is the antagonist’s DEA agent brother going to bring him down, or vice-versa? The anticipation for the final story is of the same level of that other popular show where everyone was rooting for the antagonist, HBO’s THE SOPRANOS.

Which leads to a billboard seen around town for BREAKING BAD.  With the image of the main character, the marketing team was judicious in their copy – keeping it short, sweet and with absolutely no answers! Whether they meant it or not, the words could be conveyed in so many ways – from that of a drug kingpin demanding respect and immortality to the invocation of a song from the 80s version of FAME (I’m going to live forever.) To me, it’s a perfect billboard in imagery, copy and information.

XX Venice

Angelenos are also used to billboards conveying insider information.  For instance, you can easily figure out the paths that studio heads take to their offices as their studios’ billboards, bus sides and others are always on that route. Of interest was this Dos Equis billboard with the quote “He can get from the valley to Venice in 14 minutes.”  Certainly, the quote works for a location-specific audience who constantly trades in how long they can get from one part of town to another. But this one intrigued me for another reason.

Though I’ve never met Jonathan Goldsmith, the actor who portrays The Most Interesting Man In The World in the Dos Equis commercials, I do know that he lived in Marina de Rey and the Venice area when the spots started in 2006.  With that understanding, I wouldn’t be surprised if the marketing team got the idea from a casual discussion with Goldsmith.  I could imagine Goldsmith brashly stating that he could get from the Valley to Venice in 14 minutes – and a billboard quote was born.

Of course, my assumptions about both billboards could be completely wrong – which only proves how much the viewer’s perception plays into these large format advertisements… Stay Marketing, My Friends.

Two Films Fighting It Out In Theaters and OOH. Winner Is?

The battle lines were set for two films opening tomorrow (May 18th) for quite a while – and we’re not even talking about the box office take. Presenting some of the most impressive out of home (OOH) creative we’ve seen in a long time, Paramount and Universal have certainly had some fun with the outdoor creative for THE DICTATOR and BATTLESHIP respectively. Imagine if there were no trailers or TV spots available for films and all they had was OOH creative.  How would they convey the story and what type of impact would they have on sales. If there were a way to deduce who will win the box office race based on OOH alone, this would be a compelling fight.

Paramount  effectively began a campaign that was tied more to the essence of the film than the actual marketing of the film.  There were numerous very large depictions of Sacha Baron Cohen as the Dictator as if he was actually the Dictator of Los Angeles.  Whether it was the depiction of him winning sports awards in a place that is usually reserved for Kobe Bryant or another professional athlete on the side of the Figueroa Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles:

Or, the portrait of him holding the bird of prey in a placement on La Brea in central Los Angeles, Paramount (with considerable input from Cohen and his team) they were able to make a strong presence work without even including the film’s title in a readable form.

They then went on to start putting up some great OOH creative that included the title, but it was easily 6-8 weeks after launching the campaign that they made that jump. It might not be until people actually see the film that they understand the brilliance of the campaign in the way it ties into the narrative of the film. I’m sure it was not a simple approval process to get very long lead in prominent spaces with no mention what it was actually about.  Props to them for taking the risk and pulling that off.

On the Universal side for BATTLESHIP, they went big as well.  Their challenge was in the conveyance of how a board game logically makes a movie.  I don’t believe that their OOH solves the challenge.  They do convey that it is an alien encounter movie with awesome forms of destruction, but until the end, that was about it. They did have a huge placement near Hollywood and Highland that seems to convey the scale of a Summer blockbuster:

But the execution that really excites me is the dimensional billboard that is placed as if in a standoff with the DICTATOR portrait on La Brea.  They actually face each other.  The details are really cool:

What is most interesting is that it seems like the studio’s marketers did a late push to bring some character development into the OOH with a bunch of character pieces coming in late in the campaign.

All in, I don’t know if this will draw many more viewers because they came late in the game and we still don’t know much about the characters.  I wish that they had even listed their names to generate some kind of interest.

For BATTLESHIP, I was just mostly impressed with the dimensional billboard because it was so eye-grabbing.  I think there may be some answers about how the film is tied closely to the game once people see the film, but the big question is whether people will actually go see it.

Its a much larger discussion and deeper bit of knowledge required to establish whether people would see a big action film because it is there.  It’s the same when trying to judge whether people will do the same for a comedy. In both cases, there have been many more misses than hits and it definitely depends on many factors.  But all things being equal – same release date and equally solid OOH creative – which one does a better job of drawing audiences.  Perhaps we will be able to connect the dots after we see opening weekend box office, but I would put my money on THE DICTATOR.  In this face off, who do you think will win the fight?

JCDecaux Really Providing the OOH in Ooh-La-La

I have always been on the lookout for ways to not only connect with audiences in bustling cities, but also to enhance the social experience.  JCDecaux recently announced a series of “Intelligent Street Furniture” that is being placed in Paris that really excites me. We have obviously seen bus shelters with signage and even video and interactivity, but JCDecaux’ new concepts go beyond that and provide opportunities for enrichment in real-time. It’s unfortunate that I can’t yet find images of more than just one of these new products, but I am hopeful that the Out Of Home executions will not only provide some Ooh-La-La factor, but also make its way to more installations around the world.

Briefly, the city of Paris is testing some new forms of advertising and service products and they selected a number of JCDecaux products to test.  A couple of them – like the Digital Totem and Concept-Bus Shelter – are simple solutions with a twist.  The Digital Totem offers  real-time information, Tweets, and historical facts. The Concept-Bus Shelter adds free wi-fi connectivity and mobile phone chargers (beyond additional comfort benefits).

But what really gets me excited is their Digital Harbour.  I really can’t wait to see it because I imagine it will really look great, due to the involvement of designer Mathieu Lehanneur. But again, my real excitement is about what the Digital Harbour will actually do. From the way it is presented, it will provide a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, “a 100% connected area with internet access and space for discussions for people who want to work, rest or access information.” I hope it won’t just be a space made just for solitude – it will be a space for sharing.  With the wi-fi connectivity (and the requisite advertising opportunities), the space will be conducive to connecting literally and figuratively. I would gladly be subjected to advertising if the pay-off is the ability to step out of the busy flow to either take a break or have a conversation (or even a meeting!) with an associate.

Far too often, our lives exist in our offices or in the scuffle to and from them. Innovations like these might be just the thing to compel us to step outside or angle for the in-between. I definitely wouldn’t want these to take the place of parks or other beautiful open spaces, but if they actually entice people to either take a break or see things from a different perspective – even with a healthy dose of advertising – I’m all for it.

The only thing I would be pushing more for is the enticement to share and not isolate.  If these come across as something to rest and shut out the world, then I don’t think it works as well as it could.  It will be interesting to see how they balance the need to place advertising amidst the relaxed and peaceful atmosphere.

As an advertiser, I would even play into it by not doing the hard sell (in print or video) at these locations. I would have fun and “sponsor” the moment of peace or sharing you can enjoy in these Digital Harbours.

Too often, the concerns about out of home advertising relate to noise and interference with no social benefit in return.  Features like these could help to turn that tide and make things even a little bit better.  I’m glad that JCDecaux is not resting on its laurels and is continuing to innovate. Hopefully, brand and advertisers buy into the innovation to bring the “Wow!” or “Ooh-La-La!”


Spectacular Out Of Home Opportunities Optimize Success Or Confusion

With the further development of Out-Of-Home (OOH) advertising due to technology and placement advances, there are certainly some eye-opening executions popping up in malls and on roadways.  The thing is, they don’t always make sense – even if they are being leveraged in the best way.  In the past few weeks, we’ve seen some interesting executions pop-up in relation to some entertainment properties coming out his week and one that come out in a few months.  All of it points to opportunities optimized and missed – and not all of those are based on sound creative.

ProjectX brought Twitter into their digital billboard ads, and while they came up with a reasonable “cheat” solution for not having real live feeds in those billboards, the rollout added to confusion.  Their cheat is that they have booked numerous panels in a cycle so that, while a viewer is at a light, they might see it two times with different Tweets at the top of the feed.  One problem I had was that the first ProjectX billboards only showed the Twitter feed box that is showing  in the first example.  Obviously, at the time, it did not have the “3 Days” call-out.  With no clear dating shown, it made it seem that the movie was already out as the Tweets were in past-tense.  It wasn’t until this week that they started showing the anticipatory tweets along with the release countdown.  I do look forward to a time when you can actually have a live feed – I’m sure the Warner Bros. marketing team felt the same way.

The images below are related to the introduction of future-tense Tweets.

Universal is releasing THE LORAX on Friday and their OOH has been as varied and head-shake inducing as you would expect from a Dr. Seuss-inspired film.  The top image is the facade wrapping for the cinemas at Universal Citywalk.  It conveys the required wonderment for the story in a scale that works perfectly.

Where they get a little wonky is in the standees placed in front of the box-office (please excuse my equally wonky image.)  It’s great that they allow the public to interact with and take their own pictures as part of the film’s iconic image and character.  But, I don’t understand why they would design it so that the entire head fits in the hole instead of just the nose and above.  They should have done a better job of incorporating into the actual character design rather than looking like a bizarre Amish Lorax…

In addition to the standard billboards, Universal did both a Digital Billboard and a three-dimensional one.  It’s too bad they didn’t do anything to animate either one.  Even if they could have just moved the eyes a little bit on the digital one, that would have been nice, though I don’t know if it was possible on the digital billboard.  I do think it was a huge missed opportunity on the Sunset Strip-placed billboard shown below that had three dimension element.  I really wanted to either see automation that moves the eyes or the sides of the moustache to bring it to life.  Even if they had used the technique employed by Disney in their Haunted Mansions with a concave (or negative) build of the eyes to give the effect that it’s following you.

Even though THE DICTATOR doesn’t come out until May 11th, bus shelters and this huge billboard below have been popping up all over Los Angeles.  They all have little to no explanation of what the images of Sacha Baron Cohen’s character is related to, but they are great teaser posters.  The one below is on La Brea Avenue (a major North-South artery in Los Angeles) and it is huge – the image doesn’t really do justice to how much it stands out.  Of course, the void from fact that they don’t clearly state the movie information is negated by the television and video support for the title.  First, there was the Super Bowl tease trailer and then, at the Oscars, there was the hugely popular video of Cohen’s altercation with Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet.  The video that E! placed on YouTube a few days ago has already garnered close to 7 million plays.

Lastly – and related to the Oscars, Jimmy Kimmel always has a great show directly following the award telecast.  This year, they even placed raw postings around town to tease this year’s long-form video – the latest in the annual string of huge videos created for his post-Oscars show.  The interesting thing is that it was very unclear what the posters were about.  Even knowing that it was related to Kimmel, I did a search of M:TM prior to the show and found nothing.  I searched for M:TM and Jimmy Kimmel and found little more – and was still confused.  It was only after the show aired and the video was posted that I was able to figure out that it was about their trailer for Movie: The Movie.  I guess they figured it would be all good for the re-airing in Prime-Time tonight.  For the general cost it took to execute this campaign, it seems like the penetration and awareness were not the highest among Kimmel and ABC’s marketers.

Here’s the actual star-studded trailer of Movie: The Movie

This very clearly was a small spattering of OOH executions for entertainment properties and, even though we are just beginning to see what digital executions are providing, there is still a long way to go.  The point of real interest is that it doesn’t matter how cool the technology is or how simple (or old-school) it is. Without proper thought and execution behind it the best case scenario behind a fail is that it is not noticed.  The worst is that it can cause confusion.

When Innovation Is So Bizarre, It Must Be From Mars

Not on my block!  Though I do give Brainiacs From Mars credit for capturing the spirit of the times by offering to cover the mortgages for struggling homeowners, their idea is one that’s sure to raise eyebrows – if not fists of fury from the occupants of neighboring houses. The mechanics of their bizarre marketing product is that they will paint your entire house (except the roof, windows and doorways) with whatever brand has engaged their services for anywhere from one to twelve months.  During that time, the homeowner’s mortgage payments will be paid by the company.  In the midst of these financial troubles, it could be the perfect solution for someone who is struggling to make their payments or finds that their mortgage is under water. But, the true cost for the homeowner – and the advertised brand – could be  a million times more than it is worth.

As municipalities are taking measures around the world to curb the proliferation in advertising and the cacophony of imagery and messaging that comes with that, these executions could be quite steep. The happiness in São Paulo, Brazil continues to spread since they passed a law cracking down on visual polution  and, while the citizens had something to complain about before the crackdown,  their ad placements weren’t even close to the brazen disregard for visual decorum that this product provides.

The folks at Brainiacs From Mars are smart, though, in how they may be able to control the prices they have to pay for placement.  For instance, they will most likely only be agreeing to paint homes that are on well trafficked roads.  Those houses are typically cheaper than the houses that have little to no traffic or are well covered by a wall or flora.  While it might be enticing for a homeowner with a 3 or 4K+ monthly mortgage to have a few month’s of paid support, their homes will most likely will not be in play. The houses that are selected for participation will naturally have considerably lower costs and higher visibility. Brainiacs founder, Romeo Mendoza, hopes to paint up to 1,000 homes.  We’ll have to see if their realized numbers come close and how the mix nets out.

Those painted houses will attract a lot of attention – good and bad – and will most-likely cause a stir and even further regulation and community guidelines.  Even with the crazy nature of this one, I place it behind the rooftop QR codes I wrote about a couple months ago in the “What are they thinking?” category because of its real visibility.

John Cougar Mellencamp caused excitement when he offered to paint MTV’s Party House pink in 1984 for some lucky winner. Sadly, I don’t think this is going to have that same type of excitement.  Surely, there could be some buzz if someone actually agrees to paint their house with a brand, but the brand should think long and hard whether they want to be a part of it. The portrayed brands will definitely be at the forefront of people’s thoughts. It seems unlikely that those thoughts will be kind. As for me, I’ll be happy to have a house branded in my neighborhood – when I’m living on Mars.

With Out-Of-Home going Hi-Tech, Grab Opportunities For Life in Lo-Fi

Out-Of-Home media has seen growth both in total spend and the creative opportunities that digital displays and technology are bringing to the equation in the 21st century.  Media and communication analysts, SNL Kagan, point to the upward trend in outdoor ad spending in their newest study, “Economics of Outdoor & Out Of Home Advertising,” with the projection that it will generate $10B annually by 2020.  The ability for marketers to leverage the large format digital billboards and the smaller displays that allow for interaction and actual transactions will be key elements of the growth. But, with that being said, is there any opportunity for small companies to enter the OOH environment to advertise their goods?  Perhaps a great solution for some marketers is to actually go in the opposite direction and make their mark in OOH by going Lo-Fi.

In the case of Baruel foot deodorant in Brazil, they went small-scale, Lo-Fi with a hook.  Agency, Z+ Comunicação, used actual shoelaces as part of their ads placed around cities to bring the bad smells of stinky feet to a more personal level.  Thankfully, they did not use real cheese or fish – or pipe in bad smells – but the texture or depth the laces brought to the execution helped it to stand out.

I think a possible next step or extension of this could be as simple as printing the product information on a board and then affixing an actual shoe to it with real-looking fake fish or chunks of cheese overflowing from the shoe.  They would need to be placed properly and safely, but that disruptive element would make an equal or greater impression. And by disruptive, it could be as simple as just a blip in the corner of someone’s eye that makes them look twice because they are not used to it and it takes them out of their every-day rhythm.

With the costs of printing dropping and properties being open to experimenting with different forms of media, the opportunities to take advantage are there .  You just have to be inventive and creative with them.

With the Baruel example above, they were able to extend the narrative of their product in the “simple” execution that stood out because of its ingenuity and not because of its shock value.  We may not know what kind of ROI they got in return, but the ads themselves have generated a buzz around the world and their cost of implementation was surely on the lower end without the need to book the larger billboard, bus-side and other higher cost placements.

Even wild posting could stand to have some more creativity to make them pop out.  With augmentation and other lo-fi creative solutions,  marketers probably wouldn’t be able to go as wide-spread as they currently can with the wheat paste postings, but with proper placement and creative, the higher quality on the lower quantity can make a difference.

No matter what the economics are, the needs for inventiveness are at a premium – not necessarily huge amounts of money. While many – including myself – love the bright shiny objects, strong imaginative and basic executions can really hit the spot – especially if they are disruptive in the right way. And, no matter how much the world gets deeper into technology, there’s always a place for Lo-Fi.  Don’t be afraid to reach for the Lo-Fi opportunity and grab it.