Fantastically arresting. Brutally simple. Great outdoor advertising is a joy to behold. But sadly, countless major brands simply do not get the concept of what makes an effective outdoor advertising poster. This is an issue that has me regularly head-butting my desk, and I want it to stop as my head hurts.
You may have noticed that, at this early stage in our agency’s relatively short life, we’ve not done a lot of outdoor advertising. That as may be. However, we’ve spent decades creating great regional and national poster campaigns for major household brands. I also spent a number of years in the outdoor media sector. With this in mind, I’m more than willing to share my thoughts in this area.
In just the past 3 months, I’ve seen some great poster campaigns and some absolute shockers – all of which had a hefty budget attached to them. So why is it that so many major brands cannot understand that a poster is not the same as a press ad? Why is it that they entrust this creative work to agencies that clearly have no clue? It baffles me to the point of irritation. Though it’s best I stick to the purpose of this post; i.e. to highlight the simple dos & don’ts of creating a billboard poster (AKA ’48-sheet’).
WHAT MAKES FOR BAD OUTDOOR ADVERTISING?
It is obviously tempting to name & shame advertisers by plonking their posters in this blog, but I feel that would not have the desired effect. Far simpler for me to pick up some of the things I see regularly, which advertisers MUST consider before approving their 48-sheet creative:
- WAY TOO MUCH CONTENT: If the average time for a car to pass a roadside 48-sheet is less than 10 seconds and the drivers’ eyes are on the road and NOT on your interruptive advertising message, just how much content do you think you can you put on that poster, without simply creating visual ‘noise’? Not a lot, so don’t.
- OVERLY SUBTLE BRANDING: Art directors love things nice & tidy – it’s their job. They love to make your brand ID tiny and hide it in the right-hand corner of your poster. Is this bad? Tidy art direction is an art-form in itself; however, do consider that if a consumer manages to effectively imbibe your advertising message, but does not see your brand, has your poster done an effective job? No. Subtlety is great, but not at the cost of no brand recognition.
- WORDS, WORDS, WORDS: A 48-sheet poster should have no more than 10 words. Stating the obvious? Sadly not. A rather famous book retailer just spent a fortune on a national outdoor campaign whereby there must have been a 20-30 word-count on each poster. An utter waste of marketing budget in my view. Even more depressing when they’re in a declining sector thanks to the miracle of online shopping and the emergence of tablet ‘books’. Writing an essay on your poster, will have no effect whatsoever. I know you want to get a load of information across – get some ‘bang for your buck’. I know that your creative team doubtless had a really cool idea that you just had to use, but do yourself a favour and reconsider whether an outdoor poster is the right media format for that idea.
- CREATIVE COPY: Telling everyone you’re great, without giving consumers a reason to engage with your brand; your message; your proposition, will not sell your product. You have to be cleverer than that. This is the reason why there are so many bad poster campaigns out there – because the clients or agencies responsible cannot consider this point along with point 3. They cannot write a great line that sums up the entire brief, in less than 10 words. It can be done. If you or your agency can’t do it, then find an agency that can. There are plenty.
- IMAGERY/BRAND ASSETS: Use both of these properly and effectively. If your brand colours and type are consistent and synonymous and instantly recognisable, USE THEM. Equally, that old adage ‘a picture can say a thousand words’ is of course true. Consider this and exercise it.
We live in an age where consumers are assaulted by hundreds of thousands of interruptive brand messages per day. Lest we forget, they’re becoming more savvy and they’re becoming more desensitised. With that in mind, you (and us) need to work harder to drive your message home. There will always be a place for outdoor advertising, but you’d be wise to ensure you’re one of those advertisers producing GREAT outdoor advertising. Otherwise I’d suggest you reconsider that spend altogether.