Outdoor campaigns can create instant visual impact at carefully targeted locations. Ken Gofton examines four current posters.


The AA's switch last year from the slogan 'The Fourth Emergency Service' to 'Just AAsk' was designed to end the perception that it is purely a breakdown organisation. By showcasing its wide range of other products, it aims to raise awareness and increase cross-selling.

But promoting a diverse range of services risks blurring the key message that they are all available from one provider. There's only one solution to this: creative consistency.

The AA's road signs are familiar to everyone. This established branding device - a yellow background with a black border - unites all the creative treatments. Images of 'real' people illustrate consumers with dilemmas where the AA is able to assist. Headlines are simple, such as 'How can I get to Tooting without tooting?' for the AA's online route planner.

There are three good reasons for using outdoor media - which was planned by Manning Gottlieb OMD and bought by Posterscope. One is that, by and large, the AA's competitors don't. It also believes people are most receptive to the brand at a roadside location, and finally, the AA was successful with outdoor last year.

The campaign is scheduled to run in bursts over nine months, using 6000 48-sheets, 900 96-sheets and 4500 six-sheets.

The AA is clustering the posters to increase impact and using bus 'mega rears' and car park barriers to promote the brand in unexpected places.

Research at the end of 2002 showed that four out of five people know the AA is not just for emergencies.

Client: AA

Creative agency: M&C Saatchi

Outdoor specialist: MG OMD/Posterscope

Period: March-November


MFI has invested £10m to let consumers know it stocks a number of important new brands and can provide furnishing solutions throughout the house.

At the heart of the campaign is a series of TV commercials, directed by Jeff Stark. Each focuses on a different room, revealing glimpses of a mystery celebrity going about their routine. The question 'Whose room is this?' is then posed. The answer provided is not the celebrity's name, but that of the brand whose products are featured, such as Schreiber or Sofa Workshop.

The ad is reminiscent of the BBC's Through the Keyhole. Publicis chairman and executive creative director Gerry Moira draws a careful distinction, however. "The programme is not the inspiration for the idea," he explains.

"The idea is about grouping all the big names under one roof. The mechanic for keeping that interesting is to play this little game about guessing the owner. Through the Keyhole is an influence, but not the inspiration."

As one-hit media, posters and press ads do not lend themselves to the same slow-reveal as a TV commercial. Nevertheless, the idea of 'All the big names under one roof' is exploited, with stars including Vinnie Jones, Martine McCutcheon and Harry Hill.

A total of 180 96-sheets and 660 48-sheets have been used so far in London and the South-East. Sites have been chosen, says MFI marketing manager Jon Coulson, to be within 15 minutes' drive of the 120 stores that have had a Conran redesign.

Client: MFI

Creative agency: Publicis

Outdoor specialist: ZenithOptimedia

Period: Progressive roll-out


The campaign behind Volkswagen's V10 diesel engine was intended to be for the motor press only, but ended up on TV and posters and at the cinema too.

Having test-driven the 4x4 Touareg in off-road conditions, the agency team returned raving not just about the vehicle, but what lay under the bonnet - 'the most powerful diesel engine ever created for a passenger car'.

As account director Fran Page says: "It is awesomely powerful." VW's communications manager for big cars, Anthony McClean, says: "The agency believed the engine deserved to be on TV. I didn't think there was the budget. However, because the idea it came up with is such a compelling piece of work, it was very easy to justify putting more money behind it."

The idea came about because, unusually, the BMP DDB planners pinned a photograph of the V10 engine to the outside of the brief prepared for the creative department. Within five minutes, says Page, the creatives rang back to say it reminded them of a skull. Showing the engine alongside the skulls of powerful animals makes the point of its power and speed in a subtle way.

Museums would not lend the agency suitable samples of skulls, so the agency tracked down a US company that makes replicas.

It remained a low-budget campaign. Production costs for the ad were low and its use has been carefully aimed at 'petrol-heads'.

"Posters were not a major part of the plan, but because it is such a visual piece of work it really suits 48-sheets," says McClean. "And it makes you look twice and ask what on earth it is."

Client: Volkswagen UK

Creative agency: BMP DDB

Outdoor specialist: Viacom

Period: Early May


The slump in the world stock markets has not been kind to the Financial Times, hence the need for a revamp, including the launch of a magazine on Saturdays - the day when, historically, the FT's circulation gets a healthy boost from sales to small investors.

According to UK marketing director Tim Ward, the paper is now "bigger and better than ever". "The weekend magazine alone is worth £1 of any thinking person's money," he adds.

This is the background to the current £2m campaign, the FT's first in two years. Most of the spend is going into outdoor, with a bias toward London, the South-East and major cities. The outdoor campaign includes 48-sheets, six-sheets, cross-track and taxi 'supersides'. Radio, TV and the financial and trade press have provided support.

Posters were chosen as the main medium because the FT could buy sites targeting commuter traffic, explains Tom Knox, managing partner at Delaney Lund Knox Warren. Key audiences include occasional readers buying from newsstands and lapsed readers.

Although the campaign's prime aim is to announce the redesign and the launch of the weekend magazine, subsidiary objectives include raising brand awareness and salience.

Headlines such as 'New FT, new comment' and 'Success reads success' appear as if on a page of furled pink newsprint, leaving no room for doubt as to which paper they refer to.

Client: Financial Times

Creative agency: Delaney Lund Knox Warren

Outdoor specialist: BJK&E Media

Period: April-June


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