Boards help update OSC’s image

John McIntyre, a partner in the Axmith McIntyre Wicht agency in Toronto, thinks of two of Toronto's prime visitor attractions as Hollywood celebrities.'The Art Gallery of Ontario is Gene Kelly, and the Ontario Science Centre is Robin Williams,' McIntyre says.But the...

John McIntyre, a partner in the Axmith McIntyre Wicht agency in Toronto, thinks of two of Toronto’s prime visitor attractions as Hollywood celebrities.

‘The Art Gallery of Ontario is Gene Kelly, and the Ontario Science Centre is Robin Williams,’ McIntyre says.

But the osc was not always like the Chicago-born comic who has lit up the screen in such movies as The Fisher King.

In fact, the Science Centre was seen as being out of touch, although awareness of the government-funded institution in suburban Don Mills remained high.

amw, which has the Science Centre account, summed up the problem this way in a background paper:

‘Since it opened in 1969, the Ontario Science Centre has been one of Toronto’s pre-eminent leisure-time attractions,’ the paper says.

‘Although awareness of this institution is high, research has shown that impressions of the osc are out of date,’ it says.

‘Many believe that there is nothing new at the Ontario Science Centre, and that the science that is presented is dull and complicated, with very little fun associated with the experience.

‘The result has been a steady decline in attendance over the past 10 years.’

amw’s objective was to create a distinct and appealing positioning that built top-of-mind awareness of the ‘innovative and exciting exhibits’ the osc offers.

amw chose the outdoor medium because it would reach members of the Science Centre’s target group when they would be most receptive to its message – on their way to work as they thought of leisure with the family.

The agency designed superboard, transit shelter and interior transit card creative to reproduce some of the Science Centre’s more popular exhibits, says the background paper, and many of the executions, in fact, were interactive, as are many of the osc’s exhibits.

To advertise the Science Centre’s laser exhibit, amw designed a billboard that appeared to have a laser burn running right through the middle of it.

Catcher’s glove

Another ad showed a catcher’s glove with a hole ripped through it courtesy of the world’s hardest thrown baseball, recalling the hugely popular pitching and batting exhibit at the centre.

A third advertisement offers subway riders the chance to test personal stress levels, and another has a replica of the rockface at the Science Centre mounted on a billboard. Three mannequins are mounted on the billboard’s rockface as though they are climbing it.

To promote the Science Centre’s Challenger space exhibit, McIntyre says parts of a billboard were removed and, with a little imagination, what is left looked like the gantry in Cape Canaveral, Fla. from where the space shuttle takes off.

Increasingly vertical

Not unnaturally, McIntyre is bullish on the future of outdoor advertising, suggesting that as other media refashion themselves outdoor will enjoy a renaissance.

‘I think it’s become one of the last great mediums,’ McIntyre says.

He says part of this rebirth will come from the technology now driving outdoor, adding it will also come from studies, by suppliers and others, on the medium.

He says advertisers and their agencies now know who sees the boards, alluding to the recent Mediacom/University of Alberta study that reported how outdoor works.

Also, McIntyre says there is ‘great’ outdoor being created in Canada because of the way some aspects of advertising work in this country.

He says outdoor presents a challenge to ‘senior creatives’ here because they can actually originate an entire campaign rather than spend their time adapting u.s. material.