In America, we all know small towns where gossip travels fast and scandal travels even faster. When I saw the trailer for the drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, I thought about that need we all have to be heard, and how sometimes drastic times call for drastic measures (see image from movie above). A line from the trailer really struck me: "The more you keep a case in the public eye, the better chance you have of getting it solved." And then it hit me: Three Billboards wasn't using billboards as just as a plot device, but as a scene-stealing main character. Why? Because out-of-home (OOH) advertising has a way of stopping you in your tracks.
I realized that Three Billboards truly illustrates how OOH can speak directly to local communities and issues in a way that nothing else can. It has the potential to be in-your-face, incendiary, get a rise out of people and make a clear statement. What more could a modern marketer hope for?
Over the years at Outfront Media, I've loved watching how brands insert themselves into a conversation and bring light to their mission through OOH. How have brands, organizations and citizens been able to do this? You don't need to look far to see the significant role that OOH has played in local elections or putting young startups on the map. OOH has the power to deliver critical messages immediately and take advantage of the moment.
When you look at a series of billboards a story unfolds; you become a part of the story and that story becomes interactive. There's not only an immediacy to OOH, but an ability to target your story so that your audience feels that your message is directed towards them.
At Outfront, we've seen how some of the best campaigns comment on local trends and interact with pop culture at large. Sometimes, OOH can be provocative, by asking questions of its viewers -- just like the film. Other times, OOH has the ability to affect your audience on a subconscious level, and the repeated interactions with a message lead your audience to take action.
Three Billboards is an example of just how creative and show-stopping OOH can be. In the film, we see how OOH can evoke strong feelings in local communities. If you want to create a message that is in your face, inescapable and forces your audience to make a move, OOH is the medium of choice. There is no "trolling," no turning it off or flipping to another screen. It's in your face (for better or for worse)!
OOH is experiencing an amazing cultural moment, and it's become so influential that instead of being shaped by pop culture, it is shaping pop culture. The idea that OOH could be used as a central character to move a story forward speaks to the power of the medium. As Three Billboards shows, if you want people to take action, whether it's solving a murder or buying a product, you still need IRL media. Who's coming to opening night with me?
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