5 Successful Billboard Campaigns

What began in 1790 with mass-produced posters plastered to the sides of buildings has evolved into a network of some of the most interesting outdoor advertisements ever created. The sheer size of billboards instantly grabs attention, and these five campaigns show how companies are taking advantage of this medium by combining it with modern forms of customer engagement.

Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty”

Based on a 2004 survey that asked women how much influence they felt that they had over beauty standards, the “Campaign for Real Beauty” was officially launched by Dove in 2007. The goal of the campaign was to make women of all ages, shapes and sizes feel more comfortable in their bodies. Billboards featuring real women posing comfortably in their underwear sparked conversations on social media. As a result, the number of women who feel they have a say in controlling the definition of beauty has jumped from just under a quarter to more than half.

The Economist Light Bulb

Located in the UK, a red billboard by The Economist features nothing but the name of the magazine and a giant protruding light bulb. When pedestrians pass under the ad, sensors detect the movement and the bulb lights up. The ad gives the impression that The Economist delivers inspiring ideas that empower readers and can drive them to new heights of success. This simple interaction shows how an older form of advertising can tap into the modern consumer’s desire to have influence on companies and brands.

The McDonald’s Clock

The “golden arches” of McDonald’s are seen just about everywhere, towering above highways and plastered across red-and-yellow billboards stating how many miles ahead the next restaurant is located. Billboards advertising 24-hour McDonald’s locations take the concept one step further by incorporating giant digital clocks showing the current time. No matter when people pass by, the billboard declares “we’re open.” Designed to create a craving for a quick snack or provide the promise of a convenient meal at any time of day, these billboards grab attention whether the viewers are hungry or not.

Coca-Cola’s “Drinkable” Ads

A gigantic billboard from Coca Cola located in White River State Park in Indianapolis taps into a concept once only conceivable by the likes of Willy Wonka: drinkable advertising. Using an over-sized “bottle” as a reservoir, the billboard delivers Coke Zero to thirsty consumers through a network of pipes arranged to spell “taste it.” An air pump pushes the beverage down to a series of tasting stations under the billboard, turning what was once a purely visual advertising medium into a multi-sensory experience that Coke is extending into the digital realm with an associated smartphone campaign.

Lego Landscapes

Ever known for their innovation, the advertisers at Lego have come up with a series of three bus stop billboards that cleverly blend in with the surrounding landscape. At first glance, the billboard may not seem to be there at all. Upon closer inspection, however, passers-by discover that what looks like just another stretch of road is actually an image featuring the texture of Lego bricks. These colorful billboards, which depict either a whale, a monster or a caterpillar, are meant to spark the imagination and encourage viewers to make their own Lego creations.

These campaigns show that, although its roots reach back more than two centuries, outdoor advertising is far from outdated. Students interested in a career in marketing may find themselves on one of the creative teams behind these types of ads, designing the next innovative promotions for some of the country’s most popular companies.

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