Special Report: Out-of-Home: MasterCard billboard worth the cash

Also in this report: - GMC Jimmy works perfectly outdoors p.15 - Rescue Mission creative g'es for the gut p.16 - Nutri-Grain outdoor: Good boards on the go p.16 - FedEx board says it simply p.18 - Nike board demonstrates...

Also in this report:

- GMC Jimmy works perfectly outdoors p.15

- Rescue Mission creative g’es for the gut p.16

- Nutri-Grain outdoor: Good boards on the go p.16

- FedEx board says it simply p.18

- Nike board demonstrates street smarts p.20

- Companion animal ad gets to heart of matter p.21

- Great outdoor is interesting, simple to ‘get’ p.22

What works in out-of-home ­ and why?

In search of answers, Strategy turned to senior agency creatives. We invited them to identify some outstanding examples of out-of-home advertising, and explain just what makes these pieces so effective. ‘Look for ads that exhibit both creativity and sound strategic thinking,’ they were instructed, ‘and that illustrate the potential of out-of-home as a medium.’

The creatives were free to pick examples from anywhere in the world. Strategy asked only that their choices be relatively recent, and that they refrain from citing their own work.

Their selections appear on pages 15-22. Readers will note considerable diversity in the range of examples chosen ­ as well as a record number of references to Howard Gossage and David Ogilvy (three apiece) for a single special report.

Oh, about Steve Williams’ use of the word ‘sesquipedalian’ on page 22. For those who might be wondering, according to Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, it means ‘having many syllables.’ You could look it up.

Barry Jones’ pick: MasterCard International

(Agency: Communique)

Barry Jones is vice-president, creative director with Enterprise Advertising in Toronto.

Before I share my opinion of a pretty good outdoor board, I’d like to tell you something Howard Gossage once said about them.

Gossage was the Ginsberg of advertising in San Francisco in the ’60s, and the spiritual father of the West Coast ad movement. (Beethoven sweatshirts are among his immortal inventions.) Levinson called him ‘the original guerrilla.’ Ogilvy eulogized him as ‘advertising’s most articulate critic.’ Buy his bio, The Book of Gossage.

Gossage had some pretty incisive things to say about billboards. He pointed out that a billboard is not a medium. Television, radio and print are media because they are vehicles for other endeavors. Consumers tolerate ads in media because, in exchange, they are receiving value from programming or editorial. Even bus shelters are a medium: commuters receive value in the form of protection from the weather, and we, in turn, are permitted to try to sell them something. It’s symbiosis, an unwritten contract.

But a billboard, as Gossage pointed out, ‘has no other function, and is there for the express purpose of trespassing in your field of vision.’ In other words, the consumer gets nothing but a sales message in return for paying attention to a billboard. The contract is broken.

That fact endows us with a special responsibility to work extra hard to make the sales message as aesthetically pleasing, entertaining and understandable ­ in a word, engaging ­ as we possibly can. (And no, that d’esn’t mean you’re allowed to make the advertiser’s name so small that it can’t be seen by a slow walker at 30 feet.)

One of the boards in Toronto that I like is the permanent ‘spectacular’ from MasterCard International, just east of Cherry Street and north of the Gardiner Expressway. It’s a giant 3-D replica ­ and a good one ­ of one of those old-fashioned table-hockey games, the message being that MasterCard is a sponsor of nhl hockey.

When I see it, I can almost hear the clatters and clunks and shouts of triumph and frustration, echoing down the years from the days of my youthful addiction to the game.

I like it because it engages me nostalgically, because it d’esn’t resort to the standard hockey cliches, and because the idea is worth the cash it took to make it. I’ve seen plenty of expensive permanent boards that are a lot less entertaining. (Come to think of it, if you’re going to trespass on my field of vision just to get top-of-mind about a sponsorship, you had damn well better be entertaining.)

It’s a particularly good idea for a ‘spectacular,’ because of the shock value of seeing a familiar image so much larger than it really is ­ and in 3-D too. (It wouldn’t have worked nearly as well in print, or in a transit shelter.)

Also, it’s an ideal medium (pardon me, non-medium) for a simple message that requires a constant reminder, although the electronic ‘crawly’ that cuts right through the top half of the board d’es spoil the visual purity of the idea.