They say there’s a thin line between genius and insanity, but where is it?
It’s subjective, but in the ad industry, it’s defined by success: weirdness that doesn’t work is insanity, weirdness that does is genius. And when you come up with a stroke of genius, you give it the biggest canvas possible.
That’s why, today, we’re taking a look at six out-of-the-box billboards that turned heads and got results.
5. DHL’s Maze
When you’re designing a billboard for the front entrance of Amsterdam’s busiest airport, it takes something truly striking to capture the attention of the 11 million people that pass through it each year. German shipping giant DHL absolutely nailed it with this 3d billboard: A ball pops out of the top left and rolls down the bottom right, taking the shortest possible route each time. Once it reaches Point B, a conveyor belt hidden behind the backboard zips it back to point A, where the process restarts: a literal interpretation of their slogan, “Always the Right Way.” The concept’s simple, but the execution’s incredibly intricate.
DHL has a history of creative advertising, a gallery of which can be found here.
4. Adidas’s Giant
The 200-foot ferris wheel at Vienna’s Prater Amusement Park is one of the Austrian capital’s most famous landmarks. That’s why, when the city hosted the European Football Championship in 2008, Adidas covered it with one of the biggest and most remarkable print ads ever conceived.
To clarify, the big guy, Petr Čech, was widely considered the world’s number one goalie at the time, so in addition to the “wow” factor, depicting him with eight spinning arms was a spot-on visual metaphor. The ad was covered by media outlets worldwide, took home three top design awards, and was seen by over a million people a day.
3. Thornton’s Chocolate Billboard
After slow sales in 2007’s first quarter, British candy chain Thornton’s came up with an idea for an Easter promotion customers couldn’t help but notice: a 15-foot wide edible billboard. They spent three months designing the confectionary, and 300 hours building it out of 128 chocolate panels, 72 hazelnut eggs, and ten Easter bunnies.
They placed it in the middle of one of London’s busiest shopping districts, where it was supposed to last a week, but was eaten within three hours. Not before the promotion was covered by all the local news outlets, though, including the BBC.
Even more surprising, they’re far from the only company to use edible ads. Some of the others can be found here..
2. McDonald’s Chalkboard Menu
This billboard embraced its own impermanence, too, but in another way: For several weeks in 2013, McDonald’s busiest location in Warsaw, Poland presented its daily specials on a giant chalkboard. No, not a billboard designed to look like a chalkboard, an actual chalkboard. They hired a local graffiti artist to get in a cherry picker and draw giant illustrations of their burgers twice a day.
The campaign quickly went viral, and has been featured in tens of design blogs.
1. Deadline Couriers Bombs Auckland
“When Deadline Couriers gives you a time, they mean it” announces a TV spot the New Zealand delivery service put together to accompany this billboard. “In July 2007, they really meant it.”
To prove it, they put up a billboard in downtown Auckland bearing their slogan and a giant countdown clock.
In the week leading up to it, they pointed a camera at the clock and livestreamed the footage on their website, then sent out a notice on every parcel they delivered with its address. Every major news network in the city covered what was about to happen, prompting a storm of controversy from viewers around the country.
On the last day, they closed off the street around the billboard, then, when it reached zero, they detonated it with pyrotechnic explosives.
(Some NSFW language.)
People flocked into the streets to watch the blast, which they claim could be seen by a million people.
What are some of your favorite ads that shouldn’t have worked, but did? Leave us a comment.