Buying Groceries from a Transit Shelter Advertisement

outdoor advertising that doubles as a shopping guide
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could order your groceries online while you were commuting or at least check to see what you need to buy? That way, you could take care of two annoying tasks at the same time.

The folks at Peapod came up with a mobile phone app to do just that—order your groceries online while commuting or even resting at home. (Unfortunately Peapod is not available in Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, or Chattanooga.) They also came up with an ingenious outdoor advertisement for their app on transit shelters to get people to download and use it.

Figuring that the average commuter has little to do while waiting on a bus or train, they placed transit advertisements in Chicago and Philadelphia. These transit shelter advertisements include a QR code so that folks can download the app as well as pictures of popular products to jog people’s memory of what they might need.

When shoppers see something they want to buy, they can actually place their orders on the spot. (No need to go home and enter it online.) The billboards make it easy to get some shopping done and even schedule when it will be delivered.

Success with Transit Advertisements

The campaign was so successful that over 90% of the people who downloaded the app from the QR code made at least one more order. It makes sense to me; you have both a well-timed reminder and an easy way to get it done all at the same time.

Other companies have had success as well. The retail giant Tesco has had excellent results with similar transit shelter billboards in South Korea, Japan, and Singapore.

Advantages of Interactive Transit Advertising

Clearly this example of transit advertising is new and different. The transit advertisement itself doubles as a service provider. With relevant content, people are less likely to see it as invasive or annoying. With the connection to our phones, customers are much more like to talk about it with their friends.

Advertisers increase the rate that information gets shared when they use interactive marketing techniques.

Mobile Billboards While Delivering Products

example of truck advertising using Tromp d'oeil Most Nashville advertising agencies ignore truck advertising, which typically comes in two flavors:

  • A mobile box truck or flatbed truck dedicated to pulling an advertisement.
  • An 18 wheeler or even a box delivery truck dedicated to making deliveries.

Mobile billboards are an effective form of outdoor advertising because we don’t notice them every day and the trucks bring the message directly to customers where billboards may be very limited due to zoning issues. For instance there are very few billboards in Green Hills in Nashville, Turkey Creek in Knoxville, or the Cool Springs and Franklin areas. Yet, what better time to remind someone of your product or message than when they are in one of these areas shopping. Businesses in all of these areas require deliveries and they have roads and parking lots.

Can truck advertising be memorable?

One of the ways I learned to read was a game I played with my grandfather on long trips on I-40 between Knoxville and Jackson, Tennessee. The winner would be the first person to each Stuckey’s billboard or Roadway truck. Those were simple but effective examples of outdoor advertising.

Imagine, however, if you took the time to create an eye catching design using Trompe d’oeil, or the art of deceiving the eye. These are images that make the eye think they are seeing something in 3 dimensions when they are actually looking at a flat surface. As we discussed last month, the technique has been around for centuries.example of truckside outdoor advertising

Do something really creative and have somebody like me feature your Nashville mobile billboard in their blog post or news article for even more publicity. In today’s world, you never know who will share something on social media.

Many delivery trucks and even many long haul 18 wheeler trucks travel the same routes daily and so they provide both the repeating message as well as uniquely memorable messages. Their audience includes pedestrians, other motorists, and people inside buildings as well.

Could you reach 10,000 people per hour with mobile billboards?

With the right planning for the route and time, a single truck could reach 10,000 people in an hour. For instance, consider a truck traveling near Neyland Stadium, Bristol Motor Speedy, the Pyramid, or Bridgestone Arena when an event ends. Or consider a truck on Kingston Pike, West End, or in downtown Memphis during the evening rush hour.

Billboard Swallows Car!

Sometimes the best ideas are when old meets new. The French have a term for tricking and fooling they eye: trompe l’oeil. There are some great examples at the website: The idea has been around for centuries, going back to Roman times. Visitors to Nashville’s Tulip Grove Mansion, completed in 1836, can see a “marbleized” entry, which is a version of trompe l’oeil.

Drivers in Austria can see tunnel made to look like the road is driving right into a woman’s mouth.

Picture of Tunnel in Austria with the Tunnel opening looking like a mouth

The image even goes so far as to make the very top look like a banner for the advertiser, which is Oldtimer, a chain of roadway cafes and hotels that promotes an all-you-can-eat menu. Incidentally, that type of menu has been known in Sweden as a smorgasbord,since at least the 1912, Olympic Games.

Customer Loyalty through Advertising

Most of us over the age of 5 are at least aware that advertising contains efforts that will potentially fool us into thinking the product or service is better than it might actually be. However, Most of us also appreciate brands with a sense of humor and a willingness to play games and end up rewarding those companies with a little extra business.

Creative advertising like this Austrian example can certainly be one tool to create a truly beneficial long term relationship with a customer.

Light up Consumer Interest

The Economist has a brand that it is a magazine for leading, deep thinkers. As we have all seen cartoons often use light bulbs to indicate when a person has a good idea. This billboard in Britain cleverly combines the two ideas, by having a light bulb light up , suggesting that a pedestrian that walks under the board is smart enough to read The Economist.

Picture of a billboard with a lightbulb that lights up as a person walks under the light bulb

In addition to the fact that it is interactive, the board is appealing because we all want to be in the elite crowd. The board subtly tells us that only deep thinkers truly get what The Economist talks about.

Consumers as Part of the Ad (Brought to You by New Technology)

This simple billboard uses motion detectors at the base of the light bulb to tell it when someone is under the billboard. Then it “knows” to turn on the light bulb.

Even if the pedestrian does not realize his “brains” are turning on the billboard’s light bulb, drivers and walkers farther away will see the flashing light and take notice.

Consider these other interactive billboards (many of them in London and Britain)

  • The Lookup campaign by British Airways shows a child tracking, in real time, the path of one of their planes as it passes overhead.
  • A domestic abuse billboard campaign in London’s Euston rail station that gives pedestrians the ability to use the cellphone to jerk a yelling man from one billboard to another
  • In London’s Victoria Station, there is a spot on the floor with a “look up sticker.” People who dare to go to the spot get to interact with a holographic angel that descends from the sky. (You can see a video here: )
  • Jameson Whiskey designed a billboard that talks to directly to pedestrians.

Does an Interactive Billboard Work?

Studies have shown that on average it takes at least 7 views of a billboard for a person to remember the message (which is much less than other mass media.) However, we are all bombarded with enough advertisements, that many of us filter out many, if not most of the advertising that we see.

The Economist is smart to draw in the customer using an interactive billboard because when the person actively engages with the billboard, they become one with the message; they drop their filters. These billboards are still new enough to capture their attention and inspire a reaction.

Drinking from a Billboard

Unfortunately, most advertisements have to convince you through sight or sound that food and drink tastes good. They cannot deliver the food or the drink. Here are four billboards that turn that notion on its head.

If these inspire you to do more than a plan billboard, give me a call at 615-601-2226 and we can figure out a way to create an outstanding billboard or we could do some innovative product sampling and couponing ideas to drive traffic to your business.

Drinking Coke

However, Coca-Cola offered Coke Zero to attendees of the NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis. The visual part was a straw that spelled out “Taste It.” The board also contained 6 fountains placed at the bottom of the board. The Coke Zero product traveled through the straw to reach the fountain. They used compressed air in the straw to make it look like someone was drinking from the straw (which the were—sorta.)

Drinking Beer

If you check out the video link above, assuming Carlsberg hasn’t taken it down, you can peruse some U-Tube videos showing how many people were lining up for free beer from a billboard. This billboard advertisement was created in London by Carlsberg, a Danish company. Many folks seemed to agree with the text “Probably the best poster in the world.”

Legal issues were handled by security personnel who carded people who wanted a sample and no one was allowed more than one glass. Some of the logistics were likely handled by the board being on the side of Truman Brewery in Shoreditch.

Having Their Cake and Eating It Too

Marie Antionette would have been proud of Mr. Kipling’s billboard; it was made entirely of cake and people could eat it every day. It took 13,360 “cakes-on-the-go” to make the board. Later they augmented the billboard with “cake-on-the-go” dispensers at various bus shelters on Tottenham Court Road and 18 other bus shelters in England and Scotland. The dispensers held up to 500 cakes each.

Checkout more of this story here:

Pet Food and Foursquare.

A German company used billboards to hand out dog food pellets. After owners checked in via Foursquare to activate the dispenser, the dog got a treat at doggie height.

Take a look at your advertising, call us (615-601-2226) and see what we can do to help you maximize social media, customer demonstrations or engagement, and billboards. The results can be stunning.

Don’t Jump off the Billboard

BMW-Overnight-Test-Drive-BillboardIf you thought you saw someone sitting on top of a tall billboard with a giant teddy bear, would call for 911 to help them get down or so that the won’t jump off?

When a BMW dealer posted the add above 3-D billboard design, several people did just that, not realizing the “person” was actually a mannequin dressed in pajamas with a large teddy bear. After the first few people called to the police to get them down, the dispatchers figured things out and reassured motorists that it was just a highway billboard advertisement.

While the mannequin stayed in place, the original teddy bear had to be replaced and fastened more securely. The companies running the ad never found that original teddy bear.

Free and Effective Advertising

The 3-dimensional figures brought home the point that you could take a BMW home, sleep overnight and bring the car back the next as part of your test drive. It is a well-known fact, that car dealers are much, much more likely to make a sale when the driver takes a car for a test drive. Consequently, the billboard advertisement and campaign increased requests for test drives and sales substantially.

However, there was also a media buzz, generating calls from all over the US as well as London, Scotland, and Amsterdam. As the sales manager commented, “It’s a million dollars’ worth of advertising—free of charge.”

Billboard Safety Issues?

In an effort to avoid distracted drivers and the resulting accidents, certain states prohibit the place of billboards that distract drivers. For example, in Nashville and much of Tennessee, digital billboards cannot contain video and each ad must last at least 8 seconds. However, Connecticut state police have not commented on this board design.

3D and Cars

Mercedes Benze installed a 3-dimensional board on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood that featured a mannequin dressed as a billboard installer as if he was unveiling the price of the Mercedes CLA model. In this case there were no calls from worried drivers.

However, a Des Moines County, Iowa, the story was a bit different. The sheriff requested the owner take down a mannequin sitting on top of billboard. There were simply too many concerned citizens.

Effective Billboard Designs

In the end, 3D components break through advertising clutter. Most advertisers do not put in the extra creativity. So adding features to a billboards startles drivers and passengers and makes them take a second look. Personally, I still take a second look at the Chick-Fil-A boards, even though I know they are going to have model cows.

Butt Out Board in Minneapolis

Ever see a 30 foot high cigarette butt getting crushed in an ashtray? Think that visual would get your attention?  It certainly isn’t subtle.

All it needs for a call to action is the company website:  The group helps smokers kick the habit.

Potential Buyers

Smokers (and other addicts) come from all demographics.  This particular road is traveled by commuters, casino patrons, fishermen and more–a percentage of all of these folks would smokers.  In fact the casino, with its “rat pack” ambiance is often a smoker’s paradise.  Even the fisherman might use their escape into nature as a chance to indulge.   The stress of driving a clogged major artery can make any of us reach for addictions, be they cigarettes, sugar, or other drugs.

  Minnesota quit smoking board

Fighting Addiction Creatively

In the end, the addicted person gets a perceived “payoff.”  After all, none of us with any shred of hope, would willingly do something that harms us over and over and…   The purpose of an anti-addiction advertisment has to break through the subconscious payoff.  Some have used gruesome images of lungs charred in tar. 

Others are more witty or cerebral.  The picture below relies on the idea of quit for the sake of your child or grand child. Other effective ads have had a dark skull on the end of a burning cigarette.  Another used 2 cigarettes as if they were smokestacks with dollar bills as the “smoke.”  The crushed cigarette above certainly embeds the question, “Could I do something better with my time?”

Substance Abuse Advertising

Many substance abuse centers have effectively used billboards to attract clients.  Many public service and advocacy organizations have done likewise.  However, the messages can be very different.  Consider the billboard below that Billboard Connection posted for the State of Tennessee Department of Health in Sevierville and Oneida. The copy below is more about convincing people there is a problem.  The copy above is more about how someone who recognizes the problem can take action.

Sevierville and Tennessee stop smoking campaignBillboards have long been used to market addiction and substance abuse campaigns. Space is often donated by billboard owners as part of a public service effort. Many of

Chattanooga Fitness–Simple and Effective

Do any of us older than 13 not have at least some concern about our weight or staying in shape.  Since dieting is something we can all relate to, the right billboard message can get a lot of good attention.  This Chattannoga, TN, billboard for Silberman’s Fitness center certainly makes it point clear–call us to lose that gut. 

chattanooga fitness center billboard

Easy to Understand

It is effective because it is minimalistic and darkly funny.  We all know the guy really isn’t going to tilt the whole board, but it it begs the question: “When is too much weight, simply too much.”  We have all had times when our weight (or someone else’s weight) caused an embarrassing moment that may have made us giggle. It reinforces the message to call Sliberman’s Fitness Center. 

The humor gives us hope.  (No we are not so big as to tilt a billboard in Chattanooga or anywhere else.)  With that hope it makes sense to call the fitness center.  The only call to action needed is the center’s name and telephone number. 

Tips for Billboards for Fitness Clubs and other Local Businesses

If you are a local business, put your billboard close to you.  By doing that, you will automatically target your natural customers with minimal wasted efforts on people who live to0 far away.  The billboard will serve as a constant reminder, 24 hours a day, 365 days year, or as long as it stays up.

Even for those folks that do not need your service today, your logo will imprint itself in their brain as people see it day after day for months.  

McDonald’s Billboards: Far more Interesting than Their Hamburgers

Arguably, McDonald’s is one of the most recognizeable brands around the world, even though many would argue the product itself is not top of the line. It is, however, still of reasonably quality and very predictable and very fast, regardless of where you go–which is effectively what it sells.

Part of McDonald’s alure is their advertising. In the 70 and 80’s they regularly advertised on the Saturday Morning Cartoons.

However, they also have some very effective and ingenious billboard designs.

Fast Food Sundial

The Leo Burnett ad agency designed a billboard to let people know both the approximate time of morning it was and a suggestion as to what to order at that time, be it coffee, Bacon Egg McMuffin, Pastry, Sausage Egg McMuffin, pancakes or breakfast on a bagel.

mcdonalds-exampleIf they had brought the idea for a Nashville Billboard, I would have suggested that they get a digital billboard and then change the content every hour all morning. Such a concept is called day parting and it is very easy to do.

However, they used a regular vinyl billboard during the summer (when the sun was directly overhead), and faced the board at the right direction. (They hired an engineering company to make the calculations, but we could probably make the calculations ourselves.)

They created a sundial with the shadow as their trademarked “M.” As the sun changed position during the day (or as the shadow moved) it proceed through the various time points on the billboard.

Norway vs Sweden

For most of us here in the United States, traveling by car into Canda or Mexico is a pretty long trip. So we might not concern ourselves with the implications too much. However, European countries are much smaller. A person in thin country like Norway, is rarely very far from another country, such as Sweden.

norway-vs-sweden-mcdonaldsEvidently, for a McDonalds Big Mac the price difference can be significant and it is evidently much cheaper in Sweden than Norway. So the Swedes put up billboard on the international border to let folks know the cost on each side. As you can see from the picture, the cost in Norway was 89, NOK (over $14 in US money); whereas the cost in Sweden was 59 SEK (a little over $9).

Certainly this advertising design is a clever way to drive traffic from one side of the border to the other.

Bloody Effective Advertising

Would you dare to show a lot of blood on a billboard advertisement and its surroundings in order to advertise a movie full of guts and gore? At what point would the advertisement go from highly realistic to shock advertising, which means something that deliberately startles and offends.

In the category of Outdoor Billboard Advertising Single, Saatchi & Saatchi NZ won a gold medal for a billboard promoting the Tarrantino movie “Kill Bill.” The movie stars a bride (Uma Thurman) who is nearly assassinated on her wedding day by a modern day assassin’s group. The first two movies depict her attempts to use her Samurai sword, Hatorri Hanzo, to seek revenge by killing the leader, Bill.

So as you can see in the picture, the billboard shows Uma Therman wielding her sword and blood splattering everywhere, on the side of the building, on the cards, on the road, etc.  To say the least, it would certainly be eye catching if it were a Nashville billboard advertisement.

Too Much Realism?


If you define “too much” as generating a buzz that draws people into the movie theater and helps make it a success, then it is not too realistic. It is simply a great billboard design.

However, many folks criticized the billboard advertisement for being bloody and too realistic. (Maybe, they also object to the movie. I have not seen it; but I might very well. You certainly could not accuse it of being less than truthful. )

The billboard was placed on busy corner of Auckland, on the building owned by the television station that was screening the movie. (I wonder if they had much trouble getting permission for the install.)

Get Them Talking

It is certainly a challenge to get your customer’s attention. Drivers and pedestrians are checking their mobile devices, talking on cell phones, dvr’ing shows, and under constant onslaught from advertising.

Controversy can break through some of this clutter. The “Kill Bill” promotion

  • created a sense that it too was entertainment
  • had compelling graphics that were fantastic and flamboyant
  • grabbed people’s attention
  • created some extra discussion in the coffee shops and restaurants with the controversy
  • stopped short of offending most people

Great Location–Check, Creativity–Check, Pulling many more moviegoers to the theaters – priceless.