The following is a review of five selected billboard advertisements. Some of the advertisements have been chosen from award-winning ads located in the archives of adsoftheworld.com; others were from adform.com. Click on each ad link below or scroll down to review the analysis of each ad. If you desire to review the advertisement more closely, click on the ad image itself to see a larger version.
Advertisement 1: ClearWay – Minnesota, We All Pay the Price
Advertisement 2: BevMo!, Buy Responsibly
Advertisement 3: Gold Toe, Invisible People: See the World
Advertisement 4: Chick-Fil-A, Beef Puts U 2 Sleep
Advertisement 5: Robbins Diamonds, She’s Tired of Waiting
Advertisement 1: ClearWay – Minnesota, 2012
“We All Pay The Price”
The billboard for ClearWay – Minnesota carries an anti-smoking message.It shows a background photo of a young adult female smoking a cigarette behind eight 3-dimensional vertical cigarettes that resemble bars of a jail cell. An URL for ClearWay’s promotional website shown between the “bars” on the far right of the billboard. It was part of a multi-media campaign which included billboards and video advertisements.
The billboard stimulates curiosity with the use of its imagery. The message is not immediately clear, and the viewer would have to be interested enough to visit the website to learn more.
The purpose of the billboard is to capture the audience’s attention quickly and suggest that smoking confines and harms everyone, not just the smoker’s themselves. The message is that everyone pays the price of smoking–smokers and non-smokers–in the state of Minnesota through the increased costs of healthcare. And those higher costs divert money from other services that might benefit a larger population.
It is unclear from research into Minnesota’s whether this billboard was active in contributing to the reduction in tobacco use within the state.
The target market appears to be teens, and young adults consider the photo of a young woman used in the billboard’s background. A secondary market might be parents of teens, and a tertiary marketed might anyone who is curious about the meaning behind the billboard’s visual imagery.
Call to Action:
The presence of an URL suggests the call to action is “visit the website” to learn more. The site is no longer active; however, the organization’s website (http://clearwaymn.org/tobaccos-harm/cost-of-smoking-in-minnesota/) carries information about the cost of smoking in Minnesota that might have been similar to what was used.
Cigarettes take away your freedom. Smoking creates barriers for all of us.
Advertisement Billboard 2: BevMo!, 2015
“Buy Responsibly” is part of a multi-board campaign for discount beverage retailer, BeMo! The billboard carries the headline “Buy Responsibly” along with a photo a stemless glass of red wine and draws a connection to the “Drink Responsibly” advertisements or messages seen on alcohol. The second line and message on the billboard are “Don’t pay too much for wine.” A BevMo! logo sits below the wine glass.
The advertisement may trigger wonder as it relates to the “Drink Responsibly” message often associated with alcohol. A simultaneous or subsequent emotion may be humor as the message settles in with the viewer.
The billboard goal is to increase sales of products by carrying the message that BevMo provides the best prices for wine. Given that BevMo is a private company, it is unknown as to whether the billboard generated increased sales for the company. It is likely to have made a solid connection with its target market
Given the wine glass and the copy on the board, the target market for the billboard is likely wine drinkers, age 21+.
Call to Action:
The call to action is to buy wine from BevMo!
If you’re not buying wine from BevMo!, you’re paying too much.
Advertisement 3: Gold Toe, 2016
“Invisible People: See the World”
The billboard for Gold Toe showcases a pair of socks resting on a car dashboard as the car is driving through snow-covered mountains. There are no legs associated with the socks. The headline is, “Set your socks on seeing the world” and features the Gold Toe Socks logo. The billboard is one in a campaign series for GoldToe.
The advertisement evokes surprise and humor. Nearly everyone has witnessed someone or been guilty themselves of propping feet on the car dashboard on a long trip.
The billboard’s goal is to increase sales and by suggesting that GoldToe has the most comfortable socks for traveling. Moreover, Gold Toe has been in business since 1934 and has a history of making a quality work sock as is suggested by their website. More adventuresome imagery and sock patterns might also suggest that Gold Toe desires to capture a new market for its product.
Also, using an everyday situation of car travel, Gold Toe also suggests that it’s socks are not limited to travel or adventure, but also can be worn whenever one desires comfort. The invisible person in the billboard allows the viewer easily imagine themselves wearing the socks.
The target market appears to be anyone who wears socks. Considering that “feet on the dashboard” tends to be something younger people do, one might argue that the billboard further targets the Millenial Generation. The headline, “Set your socks on seeing the world” encourages and relates to those who seek adventure and might support the new market argument made above.
Call to Action:
The billboard’s call to action is subtle. It suggests the viewer get Gold Toe socks for the next trip.
There’s no better sock for traveling than Gold Toe. Let your socks take an adventure, and make sure you’re feet (legs, and body) go with them.
Advertisement 4: Chick-Fil-A, n.d.
“Beef Puts U 2 Sleep”
The billboard is one in an ongoing series of advertisements from Chick-Fil-A featuring self-preserving cows encouraging the viewer to eat chicken and not beef. This billboard, Beef Puts U 2 Sleep, features the “cow-lettered” phrase “Beef Puts U 2 Sleep” on the billboard background, along with three, life-like, sleeping Holstein Cows sleeping on the billboard deck–one is even on top of the billboard. The advertisement suggests the cows were painting the billboard and fell asleep. The Chick-Fil-A logo is prominent on the board.
The billboard uses humor to connect with the viewer.
The billboard’s goal is to sell more chicken for Chick-Fil-A by suggesting that eating beef makes one sluggish and tired, while presumably eating chicken does not. The billboard’s objective is also to reinforce the brand message and sustain top-of-mind awareness for Chick-Fil-A through humor even when the viewer is not in need of food.
Given Chick-Fil-A’s apparent popularity, it would appear the billboards achieve this goal.
The primary target market for this billboard is presumably travelers who are in need of food. A secondary market is anyone who eats chicken, or at least not beef.
Call to Action:
The call to action is to eat more chicken. Specifically, chicken from Chick-Fil-A.
Chicken’s better for you than beef. Or so say the cows.
Advertisement 5: Robbins Diamonds, 2009
“She’s Tired of Waiting”
She’s Tired of Waiting is a billboard for Robbins Diamonds, a Newark Delaware jewelry store. It features a slightly out-of-focus photograph of a woman holding up her ring finger with the headline, “She’s tired of waiting.” Robbins Diamonds logo and the company website is also on the board.
This advertisement evokes surprise as at first glance it looks like the woman in the ad is holding up her middle finger. The surprise transitions into humor as the viewer realizes it is the ring finger that is being prominently displayed.
The aim of advertisement is to sell more products, particularly engagement rings.
The target market appears to be men of marrying age who are dragging their feet in proposing to their girlfriends.
Call to Action:
The call to action is to visit Robbins Diamonds to purchase an engagement ring.
Stop wasting time. Robbins Diamonds can keep her from dumping you.
Featured Image Source: Getty Images, H. Armstrong Roberts/Classic Stock
Last Updated on October 5, 2017 by David Harkins
David Harkins is a business strategist, speaker, and teacher.
He is the founder and executive consultant at David Harkins Company. In his spare time, he writes hikes, explores, and creates art. Although, not necessarily in that order.
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David I loved your choice of ads and your analysis of each one. The one that stood out for me was “We all Pay the Price”. I have a good friend that smokes and has since he was 17. He has not intentions of stopping. It is just beyond me that someone could continue with that habit. I thought the ad was extremely effective. The other one that caught my attention was “Tired of Waiting”. I liked the creativity of it and the humor.
My parents were both smokers when I was growing up, as were my grandparents. I never had a desire to smoke and never even tried it. Interestingly, my mom smoked up until she died, but my dad quit about 35 years before he died in 2014. Even though he quit, he had been a smoker for close 30 years. While his lungs cleared up, he ultimately had other health effects that commonly arise from smoking (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/smo/), most notably heart disease. He died of a heart attack, but smoking was a significant contributor to his death.
Yes, it is a habit, but it is also an addiction that can be overcome as my dad and so many others have done. And like you, I thought the smoking board was quite effective in driving home the fact that smoking confines the smoker, but also affects much more people than just the smoker.
The Robbins Diamond ad was perfect. It was funny to the point and I am sure a lot of women feel the same way that young lady feels.I know it has informed men as well as women to to put up with the frustration and for the men your time is limited.
Thanks! The Robbins Diamond board is one of my favorites. I like the kind of advertising where the advertiser elicits two emotions. In this case, shock, followed by humor. I think this approach makes the board all the more memorable.
Great Ads! All of them were fantastic. The one that intrigued me the most was the anti-smoking billboard. The way I saw the advertisement, before reading what you had written, was that smoking makes you its prisoner. Think about those TV commercials where the little cigarette monster is bullying the smoker around and making him/her stop doing things he/she enjoys to smoke a cigarette instead. I though along those lines. The cigarettes represent the bars in a prison cell and the smoker is trapped behind it. That carries a strong anti-smoking message, to me, because I don’t want to be a prisoner for any reason….especially one that will kill me slowly.
I agree the anti-smoking billboard is a strong one. If a viewer smokes, it might make them think a little more about quitting. Or at least consider how their actions might be affecting others.
I genuinely like all of the outdoor ads you’ve chosen to review. The cigarette ad is so powerful in it’s visual representation of the addictive nature of cigarettes and how it imprisons those who partake (and those who don’t) – in many ways. I like the Chic-Fil-A add because I can relate – I am allergic to beef so I support anything that steers away from beef eating 🙂 (pun permitted). I also really liked that marriage ad – it’s funny how it appears that she is making a severe gesture (which she is) and also making the “big” point! Robbins has a nice cartoon, funny expression, great font, and great look and feel to the overall ad. The sock ad was ingenious. I like that, “Set your socks on…” vs. the traditional “set your sites on” statement. It plays with familiarity for the viewer and allows humor to squeak in – just a bit. The ad is playful and clever. A+ on that one! Thanks again for the great post. Best, sn
How cool that you picked up on the “Set your socks on…” vs. “Set your sites on…” I love advertisers that drop something in that makes me think twice and it sounds like you to, too.
Those three-dimensional ads are always eye-catching. Chick-Fil-A does such a wonderful job and I always smile when I see their boards.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Great job on your ad analyses. Each one had a certain uniqueness that could provoke a lasting impression. I too enjoy 3 dimensional ads because they instinctively grab the viewers attention, even from the road. My favorite was also Golden Toe, simply because I enjoy a good adventure and I always make sure to bring comfortable socks…go figure! Any who, again great job.
Thanks! I like Golden Toe, too! They do a great job of taking something that’s identifiable — feet on the dashboard — and use it to their advantage to promote the brand.
I find the “smoking leads to jail which implies confinement” to be far far too obtuse. About the only evidence of a successful ad campaign against tobacco were ones that made the tobacco companies look like fools and jerks (um and they are….) So the animals smoking cigarettes worked. As did effort to show that tobacco companies manipulate people. That raised anger in the public and caused some of them to quit. Most of the messages about the risk/dangers had no effect. Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you. Folks who still smoke need a new reason to quit.
In following with the addiction theme. I can see why alcohol advertising should be curtailed (like tobacco was). Alcohol leads to more negative outcomes then all other drugs combined. It is dangerous. Sure it should be legal but anyone who implies we should drink more is taking advantage of its psychoactive properties. Undermining the pathetic effort to say “drink responsibly” is .. irresponsible.
I personally am insulted by ads like the middle finger ad. Like the SEX ad posted elsewhere it is manipulation in the name of getting attention. (https://ckbakesblog.com/2017/04/22/week-6-ent-610-billboard-ad-analysis/#comment-1150)
Absolutely love Chick-Fil-A ads (http://savvytechconsulting.com/index.php/2017/04/21/greatest-marketing-campaign-outdoor-ads/#comment-77)
I don’t disagree with your position that folks who smoke need a new reason to quit. But, it’s hard to get that into a billboard. I think the dimensional ads work to capture attention. If someone was interested enough to follow through to the website the reasons — you’re hurting other people in our state, you cost us money, etc.– are a bit different. They appeal to a different emotion, and some behaviorists suggest this sort of approach might work (http://freakonomics.com/podcast/big-returns-thinking-small/).
Generally speaking, I don’t like ads that are outside the social norms much either. The Robbins Jewelry board is gimmicky and somewhat manipulative in that it makes you stop and look. All advertising does that. It’s a question of where do you draw the line. I think Robbins pushes the boundary, but I’m not offended by it because a second look shows it is not her middle finger, it’s her ring finger. So, I think it does its job.
These billboard advertisements are awesome! It seems like a lot of the best ads that we see involve 3D figures on the billboard. I wonder how much more expensive it is to purchase these (Chicfila cows, huge cigarettes, etc). No matter the cost, though, the benefit of these figures seems to be huge. People are so used to viewing everything as 2D – we’re in front of screens for hours each day and everything we view is on flat glass. Then we read magazines, newspapers, and books. Once again, the content is flat.
And then we drive by a 3D billboard.
Now that stands out. Just the fact that it isn’t flat will make many people view it.
Just a thought! Great work on this post, by the way.
I agree that 3-D can be much better for catching the eye of the viewer. So many billboards are now going electronic to save installation costs, and we lose something in the process. I also think outdoor is tricky. It has to be eye-catching enough to get the point across through the visual or in just a few words. 3-D billboards can do that well; electronic, not so much.
I have enough posts in outdoor advertising but still wanted to comment on your great choices.
The first one with the lady cleaning I know was not part of the 5 but made me laugh and I thought was probably a very good one. I love the old simple advertising so much.
I did not like the cigarette ad at all and that is good because it got across the right message.
Wine posted simple, clear, to the point and a good choice.
Gold Toe made me want to go on a trip. I love traveling in a cad better than any other way. Half the vacation should be what you see traveling to your destination.
Three dimensional billboards with cows I always thought was a good campaign. Children love seeing it on the road and it is fun and makes you think and remember the product advertised.
Diamond ring ad is an eye catcher also and I love your final analysis. “Robbins Diamonds can keep her from dumping you.”
Thanks so much for taking the time, Mary. I love those 3-D boards, too. And that Robbins Jewelry ad really does catch a viewers eye. It is hard to ignore.