storytelling billboard style

I was poking through award books yesterday, thinking to myself that there is a formula for ads that win awards…that there is a specific style and tone that always seems to do well when award season comes around. Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course, but only if, and I channel Alan Wolk here, your target isan upscale urban 30something white male hipster.

If that is your target then your award-winning ad is sure to be as effective as it is creative.

If that is not your target then perhaps the advertising is as self-serving as it is unoriginally templated to the One Show format.

I say all of this not because I don’t like the ads in the award books. I do (though, of course, I am an urban 20something white male hipster). It’s just that if an ad doesn’t hit the highlight points that please the One Show judges, it’s it isn’t the very specific type of creative that catches their eye, it’s just not going to win. Even if it is dripping with creativity beyond cool visuals and a wearily post-modern headline.

Like this outdoor campaign I came across at Drew MeLellan’s blog:

Agency Crowley Webb bought a single billboard location and ran this series of ads, a new one put up every week on the Monday, for the Irish pub Garcia’s.

The first cardinal sin of this campaign (besides being of 1989 vintage), is that it is local advertising…in Buffalo. That’s not even Manhattan. Strike one.

The second cardinal sin is one of composition – there is nothing short, punchy, pithy or oh-so-clever about the headlines, there is no compelling visual or product shot and the brand name (!) is in the headline copy. Not sexy. Strike two.

Finally, the campaign was done by a small agency…agencies like that, the ones that don’t have the budget to wine and dine the trades, that ones that the award show judges don’t care about because “they would never work there,” the ones that don’t enter every award show with thousands of entries because they can’t afford the fees and don’t have the scale anyway, agencies like that don’t often sweep the coveted creative awards shows. Strike three.

Sure, it won an Obie award.


Enough railing against the awards shows, the point of the post is to call out a great campaign…the creative thinking behind this, of how to use OOH, how to tell a story in a static environment and how to wrap consumers up Garcia’s is all top drawer.

Who cares if it didn’t win with the hipster judging set?


3 responses to “storytelling billboard style

  1. Good point. I think the billboards (as a whole) are really clever. Shame the playing field isn’t even between agencies, markets, etc.

    I wonder how successful (for Garcia’s) this was.

  2. Pingback: Storytelling billboard style at AdPharm Blog

  3. As a writer at a decidedly-off-the-beaten-path agency, I have to say, great post.

    I was shortlisted at the One Show this year. Some great stuff beat us out, but I have to wonder if things would have gone differently if we were a larger/more known/urban shop.

    Oh well. At least I live in affordable housing.

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