The Billboard Is Dead. Long Live The Billboard.
It was the most imposing medium, creatively. But it was also the most glorious.
What was the last great (new) billboard you’ve seen? When was it? It wasn’t anytime in the last ten years. All of the billboards these days are for local businesses, especially specious law firms. Big brands still, ocassionally, put up billboards, many of them digital. But they whiff; the ideas just aren’t good. And, not to keep beating the bones of long dead “Old Billy”, that is mostly because creatives don’t think visually anymore. They think about “disruptions” and “stunts” and “purpose” and “TikTok” and what celeb will work best to sneak the brand into the minds of Yers and Zers.
“Big” impressions. Marketers all talk about making one. They talk and talk and write and write on Post-Its, on whiteboards. Meanwhile, a big fucking brilliant billboard would make a big fucking impression that folks would have a hard time forgetting. If brands took a small part of their big, useless social media advertising budget and put up ONE great billboard in a high visibility area, that baby would be shared online like the clap. ROI out the ass. Bozos.
So, yes, it’s time to have a big fucking Irish wake for the late great billboard.
Kill Bill (New Zealand)
No that’s not digital blood, though (maybe) not real blood. The billboard is actually for local channel 2’s broadcast of Kill Bill, Vol. 1. It was put up in early 2008 near a busy intersection in Auckland. Captures the movie pretty well, yes? How’s that for a “big impression”, marketing fuckfaces? Ad agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, NZ.
Rentokil Pest Control (New Zealand)
There’s never just one. During the day, one cockroach. After dark (using reflective ink), just like in real life, many cockroaches. Tag copy: “If they get in, get us in.” 2009. Ad agency: Republik, Auckland.
Mary Free Bed Rehabiliation Hospital (Michigan, USA)
No money for art? So what. You still think visually, creatives. Type is a visual, isn’t it. Aside: The ugly red “Restoring Hope and Freedom” line really mucks up the layouts and the messages, but clients always be clienting.
Heineken (The UK)
1975. London. The best beer tagline ever is perfectly visualized. Makes you want to have a Heineken, doesn’t it. Try to imagine, Digital Man, how much online play this baby would get if it was erected in Trafalgar Square tomorrow.
Here’s the entertaining back story on how the board got created and produced at London agency Collett Dickenson Pearce & Partners.
Science World, Vancouver, Canada
Science! Gotta love science. Science World loves science. Through their ad agency Rethink Communications, they’ve produced many great videos and many great outdoor ads. Including the above 2010 billboard which is covered in real gold pounded so thin (56 grams, about 2oz.) it completely covers this billboard, including the letters.
Martor Razor Blades (Germany)
Poor (fake) dead pigeons. Just looking for a safe perch and sliced cleanly in two. BECAUSE MARTOR BLADES ARE FUCKING SHARP AS FUCK. From 2007. Ad agency: Venividi, Germany.
Denver Water (USA)
Through their agency Sukle, Denver Water has done many good outdoor ads asking people to conserve water. This is my favorite, from 2008.
ZDF public television station (Germany)
“Erotic movies without interruption”. Nice art direction. Ad agency: Kolle Rebbe. From 2010.
Araldite adhesive (The UK)
Lastly, back to 1983 and maybe the most industry-famous billboard(s) in history. It was put up in London. That’s a real Ford Cortina stuck to the board. The headline pays it off perfectly.
Ad agency FCO Univas realized they had a winner, so they turned the ad into a running campaign by adding a second Ford Cortina.
And the brilliant finale. Bravo.