Sometimes, having a brilliant design portfolio just isn't enough – you need to think bigger. And that's where billboard advertising comes into its own. Large and prominently placed, art directors and ad agencies are continually thinking of new and innovative ways to use them to grab the attention and imagination of their target audience. The following brilliantly creative examples of billboard design do exactly that. Which is your favourite?
01. Reebok ZPump 2.0
Swedish agency Animal came up with an impressive way of drumming up publicity for Reebok's new running shoes: it set up an outdoor billboard in central Stockholm, challenging people to a human speed test. Anyone who ran past the billboard faster than 17 km/h, unlocked a brand new pair of ZPump 2.0 shoes.
The billboard used a speed camera developed specifically for this campaign, which used realtime object recognition and motion detection to identify runner's movements and calculate their pace, to great effect.
Taking advantage of the fact that in France its client, McDonald's, operates a lot more drive-through restaurants (known as McDrives over there, because France) than its main competitor, Burger King, TBWA\Paris set up this cheeky pair of billboards near Brioude in the Haute-Loire. The ludicrously tall one gives directions to the nearest Burger King drive-through, 258km away, while the little one points drivers to a much, much closer McDrive. Formidable!
Spotify had some fun creating a series of billboards worldwide under the heading, 'Thanks 2016, it's been weird'. Drawing on Spotify's vast repository of user data, the ads, created by its in-house team, are made up of posters inspired by some of the more unusual facts and figures related to the digital music service, and pointing out peculiar and funny outliers hidden amongst the data. See more here.
To get a little extra attention for the new Xbox Tomb Raider game during a busy game launch period, McCann London devised an attention-grabbing new use for a traditional billboard, turning it into a gripping reality show. The Survival Billboard featured gamers standing on the billboard in an endurance test, facing harsh weather controlled by the public via a livestream, and it drew thousands of viewers for the 22 hours it took to break all of its participants' spirits.
Developed by the team at advertising agency JWT, New Delhi, this Unitech billboard takes advertising to new heights. Here, hundreds of dummy matchboxes were produced and and stuck together in these Lego-like highrise structures promoting new villas gated community at Karma Lakelands in India.
As part of IBM's Smarter Cities initiative, ad agency Ogilvy & Mather Group designed "ads with a purpose", adding a curve to the billboard to create a rain shelter, bench and even a conveniant ramp while promoting the technology brand - because "if cities were smarter, life in cities would be better".
The billboards seamlessly blend modern design with functionality to help people while they remind them who is behind the act of generosity - a clever way to sell!
07. Burt's Bees
To promote their Intense Hydration range, Burt's Bees used their own consumers to reveal a before and after demonstration with an interactive billboard in Minneapolis, created with the company's go-to ad agency, Baldwin&.
This clever use of design and construction meant that the before image literally "flaked" away as viewers peeled off the skin of coupons attatched to the board, redeemable at local stockists. Eventually, all the coupons were removed and all that was left was a shiny, flat surface and a happy, smiling 'hydrated' after image.
Lego has a consistantly brilliant, creative and fun approach to its ad campaigns, but one that particularly sticks out is Oglivy Malaysia's bus stop billboards featuring unique lego art that blends into it's surroundings.
Certified Lego artist Nicholas 'Blackbulb' Foo worked with Ogilvy’s creative team to design three separate bus stop signs: Whale, Monster and Caterpillar.
From the front the murals blend into the background, with lego characters parading the streets as if the board is a portal to another dimension that's entirely made of lego.
A picture speaks 1000 words, or in this case 12 x optical zoom. These billboards designed by the team at Advico Young & Rubicam in Switzerland display exactly how simplicity can often be the most creative and impactual form of design.
Each billboard is a zoomed in image (presumabley 12X and taken by a Leica V-Lux 1 camera) of the oject behind it, displaying the camera's superior zoom quality that doesn't miss a detail.
DIY chain store OBI decided to do something different by placing their billboards not in the usual places but on people's homes themselves. Their thinking was based on the question - 'Why promote things that make our homes more beautiful, with advertising that makes everything look uglier?'
Instead, with the help of advertising agency Jung Von Matt/Elbe, they came up with something much more imaginative and attention-grabbing. "The big challenge was the search for appropriate run-down houses," Jung Von Matt/Elbe's Max Pilwat explains.
Love them or hate them, McDonald's has always managed to produce inventive advertisements and this latest offering is one such example. Created by advertising agency DDB Stockholm, this billboard takes an innovative approach to "slashing prices" on the border of Norway and Sweden. Highlighting the price differences on the cusp of each country, the advert showcases how much cheaper the Big Mac is in Sweden.
12. British Airways
This design from British Airways certainly got our attention. Designed by the Ogilvy Group UK, the company uses surveillance technology to track the flights - allowing a child to point to the overhead flights in real time. BA head of marketing Abigail Comber explains, "This is a first, not just for British Airways but for UK advertising."
Channelling that childlike excitement of seeing your first ever aeroplane, the billboard is a truly marvellous example of interactive design. You can see the billboards in London’s Piccadilly Circus and Chiswick.
One of America's favourite cookies, Oreo celebrated its 100th birthday with the 'Wonderfilled' campaign, and The Martin Agency were tasked with creating a series of inspiring animations. They then teamed up with Brand New School to take over the largest advertising space in the United States - Times Square.
"It’s an amazing venue that allows the work shine in a dynamic space that naturally fills people with wonder," creative director of Magnus Hierta enthuses. "This piece also takes advantage of the Times Square space by creating a visual tapestry of sharing that spreads across the screens and leaps from building to building."
14. Formula Toothcare
An utterly creative billboard design for Formula Toothcare, with the tag line 'builds strong teeth' taken to extremes. The 'broken' metal frame makes the billboard design look all the more realistic and eye-catching - ensuring a strong execution in delivery. This would certainly catch our eye if we were walking past.
Out-of-home communications agency Posterscope developed an illuminating outdoor advertising campaign to promote the BMW i3, which is claimed to be the world's first premium fully electric car.
Posterscope's Hyperspace division worked closely with BMW's creative agency, WCRS, on the attention-grabbing campaign which incorporates 'Halo' lighting into customised billboard special builds to create an after-dark glow effect around 2D cut-outs of the i3.
Key parts of the car are separately illuminated to highlight the models hi-tech eco-friendly features and electric inner workings, while a cutting-edge printing technique accentuates the contrast with the backlit skin.
Part of a larger £1m campaign running on across roadside, rail and underground sites in the UK, the advertising also encourages consumers to download a companion mobile app from the App Store, enabling them to take a virtual test drive in the BMW i3.
Orphea4D Protection is a powerful insecticide spray for exteriors. This brilliant campaign promotes the brand by transforming a normal billboard into a huge insect trap. Transparent glue was applied on a portion of the billboard in a recognisable shape and when flies and mosquitoes got trapped there, they made the shape visible.
The posters aim to highlight the fact that three men under the age of 35 take their own lives every single day in the UK. The lighting is also a very nice touch - ensuring that passers-by will almost certainly take notice of the billboards.
18. Nike: Knitting
To promote their latest Free Flyknit sneakers, Nike got together with advertising giants Wieden + Kennedy Shanghai to knit a humongous shoe onto a billboard. With the help of three workers, strips of neon green were threaded together to create the shoe on top of a bare foot. The live knitting sessions took place on Nanjing East Road, one of the most heavily trafficked streets in Shanghai, raising more than a few eyebrows...
19. iPod and iTunes
Apple made sure there'd be no chance of missing this advertising campaign for its iTunes store and iPod. Towering several feet in the air, the attention-grabbing design features a fountain of products that can be purchased and enjoyed on the popular portable media player.
Apple's message is simple: combine an iPod with iTunes and you have an endless source of entertainment at your fingertips.
20. Black Tower Home Security
In a campaign for Black Tower security, advertising agency TBWA/Vancouver demonstrated that some people will take whatever they can get their hands on.
The agency lined a 10x20ft billboard with sought-after household items like framed paintings, rugs, pillows, and cookware on a Friday afternoon. By the end of the weekend, the board was bare, revealing the campaign's simple anti-theft message: 'People Steal. Black Tower Home Security'.
Next page: more impressive billboard ads you just must see!