Special report: Creativity in outdoor advertising: Evian: big idea, simple approach

In this special report, we invited seven creative directors, known for their talent in out-of-home advertising, to identify their favorite piece of outdoor, and then, hypothetically, to 'sell' it to the client - in about 750 words.To make the exercise that...

In this special report, we invited seven creative directors, known for their talent in out-of-home advertising, to identify their favorite piece of outdoor, and then, hypothetically, to ‘sell’ it to the client – in about 750 words.

To make the exercise that much more challenging, we asked them to choose an execution that was not their own.

The objectives of this project were two-fold: to bring examples of great outdoor front and centre; and by analyzing specific executions, to get to the heart of what makes outdoor work.

‘What are the basic tenets, the guiding principles of creating successful outdoor’, we asked the participating creative directors, ‘and how does the chosen billboard, transit shelter or mural abide by, or even transcend, those rules of thumb?’

To get things started, we asked the creative directors to imagine themselves in a meeting with the client, faced with having to pitch their chosen execution.

Chris Staples is creative director at Vancouver-based Palmer Jarvis Communications.

Agency: Harrod & Mirlin

Client: Great Brands of Europe

Product: Evian

Outdoor is a bitch.

Just ask any writer forced to come up with a compelling headline in eight words or less.

Or an art director trying to juggle logos, type and visuals in an unforgiving horizontal box.

Of course, these same constraints also make outdoor the most rewarding medium.

Outdoor forces everyone – from clients to writers – to get to the point. Focus on the idea. Cut away the clutter.

In fact, if I was a client looking for an agency, I’d ask to see their outdoor first.

If they can consistently do great outdoor, chances are they can do almost anything.

Which is exactly why I respect Harrod & Mirlin.

In fact, their outdoor is one of the reasons I got into advertising. Levi’s. Suzuki. Mr. Christy.

And, of course, Evian.

You remember the board. A cartoon goldfish jumping from its bowl into a glass of Evian.

To me, this is the essence of outdoor.

Big idea. No headline. No puns. No ‘call-to-action.’ Not even a logo (except on the bottle.)

The board says volumes about Evian brand, without having to say a word.

Like all good outdoor, it involves the viewer.

You’re forced to draw your own conclusions. You’re left with a clear message about the brand. And a smile.

The concept has plenty of charm – but, in some way, it’s quite radical.

A quick look through any annual shows a distressing similarity between billboards.

Pun headline on top. Straight visual below. Logo tucked in lower right-hand corner.

It’s a formula very few agencies have dared to tamper with.

I would have loved to be in the room when Graham Arnould (the writer/art director/illustrator) presented this concept.

To some, I’m sure the whole idea seemed a little risky.

But, in most respects, the board is client-proof.

The product is the hero. There’s a clear benefit. And, there’s no way to ‘make the headline a little bigger.’

Understatement

The final execution is a study in understatement.

In fact, it probably looks pretty much like the original comp.

The illustration is loose and simple. The style is absolutely timeless; this board could have easily run 20 years ago – or, 20 years from now.

Arnould wisely avoided joining the illustration-style-of-the-month club.

In subsequent years, Arnould expanded on the premise with equally strong concepts (remember the fish with the snorkel attached to the Evian bottle?)

Although I have no formal research to back me, I’m sure these executions have better recall than some of Evian’s more recent, less innovative work focussing on the French Alps.

Unfortunately, Arnould has moved on from Harrod & Mirlin (he’s freelancing out here in Vancouver.)

But, the agency continues to do great stuff.

Like their Milk Bone ‘Toothbrush’ board from a couple of years ago.

Another concept that uses the power of a simple visual to make its point.

And another example of what great outdoor is all about.