Top Honors at the OBIEs

Good outdoor advertising is hard to beat. According to Mark Tutssel, chief creative officer at Leo Burnett and this year’s chief judge of the 67th OBIEs, top-notch outdoor is the purest distillation of a brand. All 11 winners of this year’s OBIE Awards, announced today (April 20) by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, achieved that purity. The winning campaigns distilled the brand’s story down to its simplest form and, at the same time, invited consumers to engage with the brand.

“The work has to surprise and delight,” explains Tutssel. “It has to bear repeated viewing. It has to be rewarding each time you look at it. The winners have to be an inspiration for the industry.”

Talk about distillation. Leo Burnett’s award-winning fresh ingredients campaign for McDonald’s capitalizes on simplicity. Last year, it was lettuce growing on a billboard to spell out “Fresh Salads.” This year, it was “Fresh Eggs” and “Always Fresh Coffee.”

To depict Fresh Eggs, Leo Burnett created a mechanical egg that begins to crack at 5:30 a.m. when McDonald’s starts serving breakfast, and gradually opens to reveal the yolk and the message, “Fresh Eggs Daily.” By 10:30, the egg closes up. Located at the McDonald’s outside Chicago’s famed Wrigley Field, the egg has practically become a landmark in its own right, featuring the most engaging of McDonald’s outdoor displays. “It’s become an entertainment portal,” Tutssel says.

Big can often be a reliable attention-getter in outdoor, and Gillette put its own stamp on that notion. Created by BBDO in New York, larger-than-life Gillette Fusion Power razors were affixed to the backs of Zamboni machines, to give the ice a smoother shave.

Finding a simple way to push a complex magazine like The Economist is not easy, but BBDO New York managed to summarize the magazine’s contents using alternative media, including pizza boxes, doorhangers and a Twister game in transit stations, winning it a Best in Show. For example, the pizza box was the perfect canvas to display a pie chart indicating mushroom exports to the U.S.

Unlike in other media, new technology has not overrun outdoor. The medium doesn’t necessarily need it, as this year’s OBIE winners prove. Of the 11 winners, only one campaign, the Best of Show award for James Ready beer, used the Web to encourage its customers to “Share our billboard.”

In the first phase of the campaign, created by Leo Burnett’s Toronto shop, users of James Ready beer were invited via billboards to “Help keep James Ready a buck,” by sharing the cost of the billboard space and sending in their own pictures to JamesReady.com. Loyal users were pictured on hundreds of billboards in their own cities. “It was like YouTube comes to outdoor advertising,” says Tutssel. “At the end, James Ready is the peoples’ beer, the peoples’ brand. It was surprising, yet it had the human touch.”

While James Ready went high-tech, BBDO’s “Critter Quest” campaign for the San Francisco Zoo went the opposite direction with an irreverent twist. Bus shelter ads featured the colorful plumes of peacocks, rendering anyone who stands in front of them into the colorful bird (the campaign also used butterflies and kudus, an African antelope).

“Regardless of the newness of technology, it can’t replace a creative idea executed to perfection,” sums up Tutssel.