When you think of an iconic location, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Times Square? The Eiffel Tower? How about the main boulevard that runs through Topeka, Kansas? It all depends who you are, where you're from and what your surroundings are to decide what makes something "iconic." It's extremely subjective, and can also change at any given moment.
While there are obviously inherently iconic locations like the aforementioned focal points of New York City and Paris -- which are frequently photographed, attract tourists, used as reference points for directions, etc. -- there are also ways, believe it or not, to make an area iconic by adding to it. And it can happen overnight!
There are a number of recent examples that come to mind. The original icon of downtown Manhattan's Wall Street, Charging Bull, was upstaged earlier this year by the Fearless Girl statue, a defiant installation by asset manager State Street which drew international attention for highlighting the struggle for female executives to reach leadership positions. All of this buzz -- including social media, TV, radio and print news coverage -- resulted in $7.4 million in free publicity for State Street, according to Bloomberg. While there was definitely an existing draw for people to see the iconic Bull, I'd venture to say that the new Girl statue made that area of Wall Street the most relevant it's been since the Bull landed 28 years ago.
Another iconic overnight success story was when the mysterious street artist Banksy held a New York City residency in 2013 called Better Out Than In, which featured 31 days of new art installations. Banksy leveraged his already massive following to unveil his new work and announce its location online every day. It brought people to the far reaches of NYC's five boroughs to view his iconic work, which included "elaborate graffiti, large scale street sculpture, video, installation and substandard performance art." Leave it to Banksy to generate tourism and make seemingly ordinary locations, like the banks of Flushing Creek in Queens or a random street corner in East New York, relevant and iconic.
But the fact of the matter is this: you don't need to be a street artist with 1.7 million followers on Instagram or a publicly traded financial services company to make your own iconic splash, turning a location into something that becomes synonymous with your brand. It just takes a little creativity!
This is why I love the world of out-of-home (OOH) advertising. I love the opportunity to understand and help grow our clients' brands. Because outdoor advertising has that ability to just be "visually loud," we're not only able to help brands like Snapchat take over Times Square but also can give a local diner in Kansas an iconic presence in the city it calls home.
I also love the challenges. Every client is different; they each have their unique stories, specific target audiences, varying goals and missions, and there's no silver bullet in advertising, which makes tackling each campaign feel so new. It's more than just understanding the client; it's also understanding broader themes like what makes people tick, what gets them out of bed and pumped for the day, etc.
Breaking through all the clutter of desperate wants and hopes and identifying that one need is difficult, but when you're able to provide a simple message or visual and blow it up in a way that's truly unforgettable, that's where the fun begins. There are so many ways to do it simply by the nature of the OOH medium, and any thought you have in that realm of "what if" has some way of becoming reality.
What if we had a 10-foot tall light bulb that could turn on and off (see photo at top)? Or how about an 8-foot monster that hangs upside down?
What if we could have a 30-foot shark "swim" off of a billboard or, as ridiculous as it sounds, a 50-foot long rack of ribs hang high in the sky? These "what ifs" have already become realities!
Now imagine seeing a huge 3D shark looking as if it is swimming off a billboard. It's something you've never seen before, which demands a reaction and engagement on some level. Ideally, it starts a conversation. And just like that, this one visceral billboard now has become the talk of the town, and has helped elevate the associated brand's awareness for everyone who passes by the ad. Because we love to take and share pictures in today's digital age, this huge shark starts appearing on social media channels, and so on.
By elevating the creative to new heights, this business has taken what was once a simple billboard location and made it iconic -- seemingly overnight. The advertisement becomes part of the daily lives of the community and people around it. The brand has gained a new relevance in the perception of its consumers.
In Kansas City, the World's Largest BBQ drew major buzz this year with the aforementioned 3D, 50-foot long inflatable rack of ribs. Whether people loved the sight of delicious smothered ribs or hated the giant slab of meat, it sparked nearly 8 million impressions.
When you ignite a social storm of Instagram posts, Tweets and news coverage over one ad with a 3D inflatable prop -- that is iconic. Considering the pricing for these props are a fraction of what traditional 3D props were just a few years ago, today any business -- local, regional or national -- could potentially have an iconic presence in their market.
Don't get me wrong; just slapping up a cool 3D inflatable prop isn't going to guarantee instant buzz. We still have to mine our craft. There still is that need of understanding the core root of a business' purpose. If we can nail that down, the heart of a brand can be represented in an ad. We can design a message that connects with the people that see and hear about it. We can create that iconic, 3D inflatable billboard that becomes legendary overnight.
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