Sunday, March 10, 2013

Posters Have Gone Crazy. In A Good Way.

My favourite advertising medium is the Poster.

Once nicely described as "a visual shout", the glory of the poster lies in its being the purest, simplest expression of an advertising idea.

Or... it used to be.

Increasingly, it actually isn't.

The subject's been on my mind because we're doing a couple of posters for one of our clients at the moment. So, just to get my head in the zone, I went to look at some recent award-winning outdoor ads. 

And although I've obviously been aware of the phenomenon for some time, I was really struck by how many award-winning posters nowadays are 'more than just posters'.

In fact, of the 22 pieces that won either a Grand Prix or a Gold in the Outdoor category at Cannes last year, no fewer than 9 consisted of 'more than just ink on paper'.

Yes, partly that's because the Outdoor category also includes experiential ideas, which last year included the Carlsberg 'Cinema of Bikers'. But still. Nine out of 22 winners - that's 41%.

I jumped back a few years, to 2008, and guess what - only 20% of the Grand Prix or Gold winners were 'more than just a poster.'

Not a rigorous scientific survey, but nevertheless a number that confirmed my suspicions - if you want to win an award in the Outdoor category nowadays, you'd be wise to think beyond mere ink on paper.  

In a way, it's probably unfair to compare a traditional poster (powerful and graphically-reductive image, small logo in corner) with a 'modern' poster (vending machine that dispenses product if you tweet it, or blow it a kiss).

But that's exactly what juries are doing.

And you know what? I don't blame them.

Stuff that's never been done before is simply more exciting.

I mean, the billboard that was put up last month in Peru, which condenses air into drinkable water for the local people (above), is an absolutely frickin' unbelievable idea.

If you compare that to the type of poster that was winning awards in the 1970s - legend has it that a supermarket won a gold at D&AD for their instant pasta range, headline "Pasta fasta" - there is just no comparison.

The new style is usually more impactful, more involving, and far more likely to get PR... and for all those reasons, far more likely to be effective as well as award-winning.

Yes, sometimes the client is not going to have the money (and maybe the time) to buy a special-build or interactive poster, and you're going to end up with ink-on-paper.

But it's not the place to start.


Sebastian Olar said...

We've had such a machine in our office. They've put it on the street. The invention- great. The advertising- mmkay. I don't believe in advertising that takes cool stuff someone else invented and just uses it without adding value. Same with the solar paper Cannes winner. I swear my next lion will be something like this, so I'll prove my point once and for all. :P

Craig said...

Let's not forget Bob Isherwood's D&AD pencil for -

"2p offa da pizza"

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

The problem with letting all the exciting non-poster poster's win, is that it suddenly becomes immensely difficult to win an award without having a more substantial budget to create something else.

Otherwise you end up with the old "One billboard in central London referred to as a poster campaign" situation.

It's great to see lots of creative thinking, but let's ensure juries look at the creativity behind simple words and pictures as well as objects.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that poster helps your case much. Technology isn't an idea. By the time it's new and you're thinking about using it for something, chances are someone else is doing it as well. By then it's not "new" anymore and the novelty has worn off.

Tony Hoad said...

A hundred years ago they'd walk elephants down the main street to herald the arrival of the circus. It was a stunt to get people talking. Ditto those three dimensional installations (that few seem to pay much attention to apart from advertising award judges) now getting passed of as posters. Let's stop confusing motorcycles with bicycles. Posters are 'ink on paper'. And still a perfectly valid mass advertising form. Driving home yesterday I saw one for Foxtel with the headline: Waiting for a series is soooooo last season. Not much wrong with that.

Ben Kay said...

'Makes Pasta Fasta': Gold at the One Show around 1983.

Mimi C said...

Creative on Outdoor changed drastically when mobile and social media entered the media landscape. They added a whole new dimension to the outdoor message, allowing interaction for full-blown PR stunt. The art of creating effective outdoor that we once knew: simple, focused and in-your-face, is buried under data, research, technology, SEO... after awhile, you start to wonder, where is the big idea?

As a creative director, I believe nothing is more captivating and memorable than a witty, intriguing creative of copy and visual on a simple poster.