Out-and-out out-of-home: 5 campaigns that used OOH as a perfect PR play
For The Drum’s out-of-home Deep Dive, Emma Grace of PrettyGreen argues that outdoor advertising's role in PR is too often overlooked.
This year hasn't been short on attention-grabbing out-of-home campaigns
Out-of-home (OOH) is often considered a paid media buy with ad agency-led creative. However, for PR agencies OOH is just another channel we can leverage to start a wider earned conversation around a campaign.
Creative OOH has long been a tool in the PR armory. It’s like a comfy pair of slippers. We know they have been used to death, but we still pull them out.
OOH is a (comparatively) economical method of implying the bravery, scale & intent of an advertising campaign, without having to buy all the media spots. If done well (and some are not), one OOH media buy alone can be enough: the tenacious publicist and social media team will do the rest.
Captured with a bit of creativity (ideally some interaction from a blindsided passer-by i.e. someone from the office), the assets can then be used in paid, earned, shared and owned channels.
The average Joe doesn’t know that it was just one OOH site on a residential street that cost very little.
The PR filter
Creative OOH with a success metric of ‘talkability’ needs to be run through a PR filter. Is it meaningful to the consumer? Is it provocative? Does it add to a cultural conversation (or respond to the news agenda)?
There are two or three examples a year that really get the ‘I wish I thought of that’ respect of the industry. The first ones that came to my mind were a few years old, which goes to show their memorability (and the fact that their iconic status hasn’t yet been surpassed).
If PR-led OOH campaigns were Spice Girls, they would be…
1. Interactive Spice
These are the OOH activations that invite the audience to participate.
PrettyGreen once worked on a campaign to amplify billboard-size peelable cards for 10 free Nando’s meals. The promise of free Nando’s got many fans up ladders, peeling off the giant velcro vouchers Free Nando’s is news, as were the fans up the ladders.
In a similar vein, Carlsberg’s ‘Probably the best poster in the world’ included a beer tap for free drinks. Mr Kipling’s ‘Better with cake’, an OOH campaign made of cake – respect to that production team.
2. Provocateur Spice
Think Relate’s wonderful ‘Joy of Later Life Sex’ campaign. Rankin’s shouldn’t-be-taboo-but-totally-were-images of older people getting it on were daring, beautiful and stopped people in their tracks when displayed on giant billboards.
Similarly, Muslim dating app Muzmatch saw Birmingham Bachelor Muhammad Malik use billboards to seemingly “save me from an arranged marriage”. Media interest was huge, because it was seemingly an authentic story which tapped into a cultural insight – of course, it was later revealed as a PR stunt for the app.
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3. Activist Spice
These are OOH activations used by brands to convey a punchy opinion. Nothing does that better than making it a big shouty 48 sheet billboard.
Brewdog is a dab hand; the latest Qatar World Cup shaming ad is a recent example which has since drawn criticism for being inauthentic, but the initial interest was there and their opinion adequately spikey.
Similarly, ‘Wave of Waste’ from Corona x Parley For The Ocean has its place in the OOH hall of fame. The 3D installation was a work of art and a sobering image of a surfer surrounded by plastic, showing Corona’s commitment to the marine pollution cause.
4. Newsjacker Spice
These are the campaigns that know exactly what is on the news agenda and respond accordingly. We have not been short on these this year.
Butterkist’s ‘Here for the Drama’, complete with a large demonstration outside 10 Downing Street during the Partygate controversy was low-fi and so on the money it got talked about.
Likewise, Burger King’s ‘Turns out there are too many Whoppers’ and Quorn’s ‘No more porkies’ when Boris Johnson resigned. The media are desperate for content to endlessly talk around big news moments; these activations delivered.
5. Brand-led but gets away with it Spice
There aren’t many brands in this category: they demand consumer attention because of brand affection.
Marmite Dynamite fits in here: a Marmite lid smashed through a car window to launch the new chilli variant. The interaction of the product and its surroundings was funny, but not all brands would have garnered the same attention with the same activation. Marmite has done the hard yards to gain brand love. As it turns out, PR-led OOH is actually quite a science.
Can’t wait to see the next one.
For more on OOH's past present and future, check out our Deep Dive hub.
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