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Finding Answers to Media Mix Questions in the Great Outdoors

By | News

It’s a great time to re-imagine the role and effectiveness of each medium within today’s media mix.

In this era of increasing complexity, with on-demand content, consumer empowerment and personalization, continued fragmentation and even societal elements including urbanization, it is no question that the media landscape is changing more rapidly than ever.

Having spent almost 15 years on the media agency side – leading local strategy for national brands, planning national Upfronts, integrating local buying teams across media channels, and developing integrated investment solutions – I’ve witnessed both the challenges as well as the emergence of new solutions as the marketplace has evolved at an accelerating pace.

I’ve repeatedly listened to strategy teams across brand disciplines, from packaged goods to finance, and everything in between, ask how to develop the best approach to market in light of the seismic forces reshaping the advertising industry.

They all ask similar questions: How can we deliver on client goals in this complex marketplace? What can we do to satisfy the modern consumer who has control over the media they engage with today? How do we stay relevant in an environment that demands clear measurable results across every channel?

The brands themselves are unsure how to tackle real-time sales data to regionalize their message. They wonder how they can build better creative to leverage the wealth of local information they receive while also incorporating their social assets to target influencers and build those crucial relationships.

This is happening across sectors as creative strategists have come to me wondering where they can best showcase their work. Creative content is optimized and set to deliver relevant messages to major points of action at just the right time, but which screens will deliver most effectively?

The more  I understood the growing challenges modern media buyers and planners (and creatives)  faced today, the more I thought about the untapped potential of out-of-home, and the opportunity for the age-old platform to reinvent itself. Not only is out-of-home still a powerful branding vehicle and the perfect blank canvas to showcase beautiful brand work, it now integrates all the critical back-end capabilities, including location data, audience targeting and social amplification, necessary to stay relevant in advertising today.

In a nutshell, data and technology are reshaping OOH strategy – how it’s bought, sold, measured, and evaluated.

Today, canvases throughout cities are covered in brand artwork sparked by meaningful insights, planned with real-time data and tied together with built-in social and mobile activity at their core. The very nature of the medium delivers more impressions, at a lower CPM and in a format that inspires sharing through social media. It’s evident from the parade of celebrities and influencers with robust social followings posting pictures of themselves in front of their billboard creative.

The path to purchase or action is no longer a linear journey but rather requires us navigating a complicated ecosystem; OOH speaks to consumers on that path who are able to activate a mobile purchase at any point on that journey.  Consumers are armed with real-time information at the tips of their fingertips along with a strong aversion to being advertised to, which means creative marketing solutions are needed more than ever before.

While I’m not advocating for a total shift of all marketing funds to out-of-home media solutions, it is clear we must reevaluate the tools we have to measure channel “effectiveness.” Out-of-home cannot be blocked or skipped. It is measureable. Out-of-home can add valuable content and information to an environment.  It can reach those who consume less traditional media.  Out-of-home is digital, flexible, relevant and able to deliver the best message at the best time.

Once we begin to really answer today’s marketing challenges, I imagine a far more prominent role for the outdoor medium.

Reclaiming Billboards to Promote Public Art

By | News

We get excited about billboards around MailChimp HQ. And if you’ve spotted any of them, you may have noticed that our tastes tend to run toward the nontraditional: shrimp photography, rice mosaics, dripping paint, and simple blue backgrounds (AKA: “taking back the sky”).

A billboard can be just an ad, but it can also be a giant canvas for a public art project. While we certainly don’t mind if people associate MailChimp’s billboards with our product, that’s not our primary goal. Instead, we like to think of these spaces as a design challenge. How might a billboard enhance—rather than detract from—the environment around it? Can a billboard help build community? What would people do if we gave them a big, billboard-sized canvas to share their unique point of view?

Over the last several years, we’ve done just that, and the results have made us really happy. Here in our hometown of Atlanta, we use billboards to celebrate the artists who make our city a vibrant hub for street art. My personal favorite is our Krog Street billboard, which we keep fresh with a new design from a local artist every month.

Take a peek at the artists behind a few of our recent designs.

Yoyo Ferro

You might already recognize the work of Brazilian-turned-ATLien artist Yoyo Ferro by his vivid colors, bold lines, and playful imagery. Lately, he’s painted quite a few lively murals around our beloved city, entertained a handful of Atlantans drawing blind contour portraits, and captured our hearts through his illustrations of the ATL skyline.

Tell us about your billboard design.
I love how subtle MailChimp is with its advertising, and that made the billboard project way more fun to me. My intention was to hide the MailChimp logo in the center of the piece in a way that only someone who pays close attention would notice, but in case someone didn’t notice it, it would still be an interesting and fun artwork to enjoy. I added an open sky to the center to give the illusion that the billboard is opened and added one of my characters looking forward at a distance to give the symbolism of looking to our future. We’ll be fine.

What advice do you have about how to be more creative?
I treat creativity like a muscle that you need to stretch, exercise, and feed to keep it in shape. There’s a lot of hard work and stress until you get to something you’re proud of.

How do you engage in public art?
One of the best parts of creating a piece on the street is that you get to meet the people that live near and pass by that wall on a daily basis, and my goal is always to come up with a piece that will “wow” them. I grew up in a city with very little to be proud of and always felt disconnected because of that, so if I can spark a sense of pride in where people come from and make them feel inspired, the same way I feel when I see public art, I’m a happy artist.

Check out Yoyo’s other public art pieces or follow him on Instagram at @yoyoferro.

Molly Rose Freeman

Molly Rose Freeman is an Atlanta-based artist working in murals, painting, drawing, sculpture, and installation. Her work uses color, pattern, and geometry to create organic life forms and explore interconnectivity.

Tell us about your billboard design.
I wanted to use Freddie’s head as the center point and grow a pattern outward so it would have some energy to it. And I used shades of red and pink so it would stand out against the sky behind the billboard. It turned out like a psychedelic strawberry kaleidoscope. Couldn’t be happier.

What’s the first piece of art you ever made?
The first piece my parents ever framed was a drawing I made when I was 5 of Minnie Mouse wearing a wedding dress and veil and high heels, standing on a hill surrounded by stars. Very romantic!

What’s the best advice you have about how to be more creative?
Reconnect (or connect) with what makes you feel curious and playful and free. That’s where the good stuff comes from.

How do you engage in public art?
I have painted murals for years and been a part of a larger creative conversation in our public spaces. It is a fascinating arena: always changing, lots of blurred lines and room for personal interpretation, and specific to its geography. It’s interesting to be in this field when the national landscape is both taut and really ripe for change because the mood of the people is often played out in public art.

Departments of Transportation Post Effective, Creative Billboards for Safety

By | News

Santa Fe, NM – Some of today’s most creative, effective ads in out of home (OOH) media are posted by state departments of transportation, on behalf of safety.

Billboards designed by award-winning ad agencies are fundamental to government-sponsored multi-media campaigns to reduce traffic deaths and injuries.

In May, Colorado DOT’s billboards, bus shelters, and bus ads won national recognition in multiple creative categories at the annual OBIE Awards sponsored by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.

In New Mexico, state-sponsored billboards are an omni-present feature of a long-running sophisticated multi-media campaign for safe driving.

“Out of home is incredibly important, because our audience is in the car,” says Richard Kuhn in Albuquerque at creative agency RK VENTURE (its client roster includes New Mexico DOT).

Alcohol-related fatalities in New Mexico have declined significantly (417 in 1980 to 120 in 2015).  The state says media helped push the trend.

“New Mexico has made great strides in reducing DWI fatalities over the past several years by combining high-visibility enforcement along with a robust media campaign and one of the strongest interlock laws in the nation,” said New Mexico DOT Cabinet Secretary Tom Church (an ignition interlock device prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking).


New Mexico DOT Cabinet Secretary Tom Church

The Big Picture

Government efforts for road safety are built on “The Four E’s,” enforcement, education, engineering, and emergency medical services.  Long-term trends are positive.

More than nine out of 10 use seat belts.  Traffic fatalities declined nationwide from 51,091 in 1980 to less than 33,000 in 2014.  The death count rose in 2015, with a stronger economy, more miles traveled, and low gas prices.

Promoting enforcement and education, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration creates templates for multi-media safety campaigns, such as “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” slotted August 16 to September 4, 2017.  The federal agency – NHTSA – sends grant money to states, which have flexibility to shape localized messages and select types of media.

States crunch data, consult stakeholders, set goals, and buy advertising to advance their goals.  Every year, states publish traffic safety plans.

Oregon’s plan specifically mentions billboards as part of its comprehensive traffic safety public information program.  Oregon DOT retains award-winning Gard Communications based in Portland to create billboards.

States receiving federal grants file detailed reports on paid media.  Here is a sample from Oregon DOT, regarding a campaign to increase seat belt use in pickup trucks:

In Montana, Native Americans comprise approximately 7 percent of the population but represent up to 20 percent of all traffic fatalities in the last five years, says Janet Kenny of the state DOT.  The state’s SOAR program (Safe On All Roads) produced safety messages relevant to individual cultures of the land-based Native American reservations.  In the last three years, Montana has seen a reduction in Native American traffic fatalities associated with impaired driving or not using seat belts.

In southern New Mexico, safety messages on state-sponsored billboards help motorists cope with dust storms.

Colorado as Award Winner

Colorado’s Department of Transportation won national recognition for its safety campaigns.  Denver-based ad agency Amelie Company produced billboards, bus shelters, wall signs, and bus ads to promote seat belts and warn against driving while high on marijuana.

“Our team was inspired to spread a simple message without being preachy or stereotyping people who use marijuana,” the ad agency said. “If someone were to really make a joint the size of our 3D joint car, it would use $19 million worth of marijuana.”

Changing Behavior

Safety experts and psychologists have long sought effective methods to change behavior in a society that favors speed and alcohol.

It took decades, but attitudes and behavior changed regarding drunk driving and seat belts, with billboards a key component of the media mix.


Disney characters promote seat belts in 1987

The pros agree that fear of consequences (arrest, punishment, embarrassment, out-of-pocket costs, and-or loss of mobility) combined with preservation instincts (protection of self and loved ones) can change behavior.

“Kids get in the car and tell the parents, ‘You can’t do that,’” says Laura Garcia at ad agency Marketing Solutions, which places media for New Mexico DOT, referring to children’s admonitions against risky behaviors.

New Challenges

Most traffic crashes are caused by human choices.  Ultimately, self-driving vehicles may enhance safety, proponents say.  Until then, authorities face emerging safety challenges.

As more states legalize marijuana, the effects of cannabis are not well understood, Jack Danielson, executive director of NHTSA, told a congressional hearing on July 18.  With pot usage increasing, government wants to devise standards to define marijuana impairment and create methods to test drivers.  “This is going to take a while,” says the federal safety agency. “Until we get a standard, states will use education and awareness.”

Texting is an ingrained behavior for many drivers fond of mobile devices and constant communication.

Pro-safety Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (2009-2013) was alarmed by the number of distraction-related deaths, injuries, and property loss.  His federal agency – borrowing tactics that changed behavior on seat belts and drunk driving – awarded grants to states to experiment with high-visibility enforcement to stop texting while driving, combined with media blitzes.

In Connecticut, the multi-media push included “digital billboards on major Hartford interstate freeways I-84 and I-91.  The billboard message also ran at the XL Center, a sports and concert venue in downtown Hartford,” said a federal safety report published in 2014.


Government-sponsored safety message on digital billboard along I-91

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