Thursday, July 21, 2011

I don't look it, but I'm an outdoor kind of guy.

       I think that I shall never see an outdoor board as lovely as a tree. But I respect and enjoy them both.

       In advertising, billboards are either a dream or a nightmare. The outdoor advertising people tell us to use very few words --- 7 or 8 --- for maximum impact. After all, drivers are racing by. They also tell us, though, that most people travel the same route every day, so they'll have more than one opportunity to see your message.

        The Outdoor Advertising Bureau provides tons of help. They'll give you books and presentations on good and adventurous outdoor boards, years of research studies, tools for seeing your layouts the way motorists will see the finished boards, and all kinds of advice. And still, most outdoor boards are terrible.

       Most boards try to say too much, show too much, and use garish colors too much. The writers and art directors obviously didn't want to think too much.

        But like everything else in marketing and advertising, if you look at it as a puzzle to be solved rather than as a problem to get off your desk, you'll do better work and have a lot more fun. Stressed-out drivers will, too.

         To me, the best examples today are the Apple boards. Often no words at all; just an iPad being used for a different thing by a different person. The iPod boards were no-worders, too; wonderful silhouettes of energized people dancing. They make me want to reach out to you and... salsa!

         There's one outdoor board that I've always loved and use as a model for myself when I have an outdoor assignment. It's a board for the iconic Volkswagen bus. It shows six or seven nuns getting out of the bus, in their habits, and the headline, "Mass Transit".  Two words. You have to make the connection. You laugh and remember the message. And it's a clear demonstration of the product's capacity.

       When Lady Bird Johnson was the First Lady, she was worried that outdoor boards were ruining the landscape. I was asked to create Chevrolet's response. I suggested Chevy put their name atop the board, and then remove all the panels inside the frame. You'd see right through into America the beautiful.

        Doing a good outdoor board is hard; a real challenge. But these days nothing about advertising isn't.

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