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I’m a New Yorker, and like most New Yorkers I ride the subway at least twice a day, every day. So, while all great advertising gets me excited, a thoughtful and surprising subway ad that grabs, and keeps, my attention during my commute gets me more excited than it probably should. On occasion, an ad campaign has even caused me to do the unthinkable: not only make eye contact with my fellow commuters, but actually engage one in a conversation (gasp!) about the work.
The outdoor campaign for Oatly was one of these because it had everything a busy, somewhat jaded New Yorker wants. The ads are simple and look as endearing as the packaging itself – which is cute in the very best way. But really, it was the copy that spoke to me. Literally. The lines talked right to me. Not because I’m a lover of the milk squeezed from oats, but because the lines about said oats were so damn funny.
The real beauty behind the campaign is that the lines are not preachy bits about the nutritional value or benefits of oats or oat milk. They’re primarily quips about the advertising itself, which in a city filled thousands of advertising and marketing professionals, tends to hit home. (At least it did with me.) Some of the ads are consecutive, making me frantically look around the subway car for more. Some lines like: ‘You actually read this? Total success.’ Make fun of themselves, which I love. And the very best ones (in my opinion) make fun of our industry. Lines like: ‘Maybe a social media celebrity will take a photo of this poster and you will see it on Instagram and like it way more than you do right now.’ And: ‘We made this ad to look like street art so you would like it better than if it was just an ad.’
I mean, come on, it’s as if they were written just for me. How great it that? As a creative I’m always striving to create smart lines that speak to, not at people. It’s not easy. And I don’t always succeed. But when I or my creatives do, I know we’ve done our job well. And when I see it out in the world (and on the subway, no less) it’s beautiful, and, I believe, truly effective.
It’s not often that a subway ad makes me laugh out loud, but these did, to the point that I felt obligated to explain to the stranger next to me what was making me snort out loud wasn’t just in my head – though that happens more than I care to admit. Thanks to Oatly, I shared a moment with a stranger on a train (in New York City? I swear, it happened) and fell in love with a new-to-me brand. One quick trip to an actual grocery store later, this die-hard almond milk drinker is suddenly convincing her seven-year-old that oat milk is delicious. Spoiler alert: it is.
Sam Arcade is executive creative director at Burns Group in New York.
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To see the latest creative ads and campaigns, visit The Drum’s Creative Works section. If you or your creative director would like to be featured in our Creative Director’s Choice, please contact Kyle O’Brien.