Special report: Creativity in outdoor advertising: Ad fetches attention

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.

Scott Dube is associate creative director at Toronto-based Roche Macaulay & Partners Advertising.

Agency: Harrod & Mirlin

Client: Nabisco Brands

Product: Milk Bone dog biscuits

This article explores how the classic Milk Bone billboard might have come about if someone other than Harrod & Mirlin had the account.

We join the creative director presenting to the client and her assistant.

cd: Ask yourself, what do people do with dogs? Take them for walks, of course.

Where? Outside. Outdoors.

Get it? Out. Out. Not in. Out.

Nobody walks a dog in front of the tv. Those people buy fish.

Dog people take their dogs, and a plastic bag, and go out.

What, then, could be better than a billboard?

assistant: Our brief specified executions in a variety of media.

client: Wait a sec. Outdoor advertising sounds like a good idea.

assistant: We should concentrate on the single most effective medium.

cd: Imagine our consumer, out walking his beloved canine companion. Dogs, and dog-care products, are now top-of-mind.

And, suddenly, he looks up and sees a huge Milk Bone on a billboard, and it says, ‘A Milk Bone a day keeps the veterinarian away, so try some today.’ Note the rhyme. It’s a mnemonic device.

client: Hmm, a long-copy billboard. That’s unusual.

assistant: Gee, you guys really push the creative envelope.

client: I meant, it’s unusual that even with all those words, it’s still vague about Milk Bone being good for a dog’s teeth – like a doggie toothbrush, in a sense.

assistant: Like I said, it’s wide of the mark, strategically.

cd: I realize that. I was just walking you through the creative process.

I think you should run with ‘Nick nack paddy wack give your dog a toothbrush.’

Okay, okay. Same picture, new line: ‘Throw your dog a tasty toothbrush.’

client: I don’t get it.

Anyway, shouldn’t it be a faster read? I mean, a billboard only has a second to get the message across.

Because, to be honest, I think most dog owners would actually be driving by in their cars.

assistant: Research indicates a positive correlation between dog ownership, and usage of automobiles and public transit.

cd: Well, we could go with ‘Give your dog the brush-off.’ Simple, to the point, and only five and a half words long. And funny? Ow, my ribs.

client: It sounds negative.

assistant: We were hoping for something more positive.

cd: Absolutely.

How about ‘Puts the Wow in Bow Wow.’ Eh? Eh?

Okay then, ‘Bone after every meal.’ Only four words.

Wait! You’re going to love this one: ‘Bone to be wild.’ Only four syllables.

C’mon, people, work with me.

client: The words seem to be getting in the way of the message.

Maybe it should be visually-driven.

Can’t we just show a Milk Bone and a toothbrush – I dunno, sort of merged, or blended together, or something?

assistant: Morphed images typically have high unaided recall.

cd: Lifesavers. Campbell’s Soup. The Sunoco shark. It’s been done.

client: So have headlines with puns. People will think it’s an ad for Ikea.

cd: Hold on, I have an idea! We show a Milk Bone merging or blending into a toothbrush. Simple, but powerful. Words aren’t necessary. The strong, compelling visual says it all in an instant. Follow me?

client: You’re brilliant.

cd: Thanks. But, I couldn’t do it without clients like you.