Making Cities Smarter Using Outdoor Media

IBM has been using technology to make the lives of business people easier for more than a century, but they don’t exactly have the sexiest brand image.  They’ve done a great job of promoting themselves as a no-nonsense company that will give you a solid bottom line, but that’s a difficult concept to translate into a trendy advertising campaign. However, thinking outside the box, they recently succeeded in creating an outdoor media campaign so groundbreaking it’s being used as an advertising case study today!

The Campaign

The campaign itself featured three unique billboards that all contained the slogan, “Smart Ideas for Smarter Cities,” and they did more than just look beautiful.  They were placed in London and Paris, and each one was a very clever solution to a common problem that urbanites often face.

The Bench

IBM Smart Cities Bench

The first was a two-toned billboard with an orange background and red outlines of a bench at the bottom.  But, the clever part was that it actually curved outward where the bottom part of a seat should be, and pedestrians could physically sit on it.  In other words, they did the opposite of a standard advertising practice, and they allowed a bench to connect itself to their billboard.

The Rain Cover

IBM Start Cities Rain Cover

The next billboard wasn’t extremely different from the bench, except it was blue, white, and upside down.  This one provided what looked like an awning, but it saved many people from getting soaked while out walking on a rainy day.

The Ramp

IBM Smarter Cities Ramp

In order to make the third billboard, the designers had to break the mold and start over.  This one was green and much larger, and it was positioned next to a few stairs.  Obviously, it made sense to extend the bottom of the sign in a way that would create a little ramp up the staircase.  It worked for bikes, wheelchairs, suitcases, and anyone else looking for an innovative way to get around.

What Was It Advertising?

These signs are incredibly creative and impressive, but the actual purpose behind them is more mysterious.  They were advertising the People 4 Smarter Cities Program, and this is one which has the goal of providing a platform for the spread of smart ideas.  The aim is to create an easier and more efficient way for city leaders to hear the creative solutions that citizens and other cities have to the various problems of running a metropolis.

Thinking Outside of the Box

The whole concept shows the advantages of thinking outside the box, and the People 4 Smarter Cities project is the type that can be difficult to educate the public about.  Companies often try to push these ideas, but they get brushed off by the average person because they simply look like corporate propaganda. However, it’s hard to ignore a billboard that solves a problem, so people started paying attention.

The Results in the Advertising World

The People for Smarter Cities campaign was orchestrated by Ogilvy and Mather, and the advertising agency received a lot of praise in the creative world.  At the Cannes Lions International Film Festival of Creativity in 2013, they won one of the most coveted prizes in the advertising industry, the Outdoor Lion Grand Prix award.  The campaign was the top of 5,610 entries, and some of the reasons for winning included that they were such simple ideas presented in a new and innovative way.

All It Took Was a Curve

One of the most spectacular parts of this advertising campaign was how a very simple concept demonstrated the whole purpose of the program.  The only physical difference between these and the millions of other signs on the street was a curve or a bend.  Without those, it would just be a flat board trying to push an idea, but the presentation was an actual example of the kind of intelligent thinking that they hope to achieve.

Video of the ‘People For Smarter Cities’ Campaign

How Can Your Business Be Smarter?

Many companies think that the product or service that they offer could limit having a fun, engaging ad campaign, but this just goes to show that even the most traditional businesses can still have a little fun with their creative power.

If you’re not convinced, go ahead and reach out to us.  We can certainly come up with some ideas to help your billboards turn heads.

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