But even a beautifully reproduced image won't break through without a strong and succinct message, which is what Rubin Postaer & Associates was able to do for American Honda Motors' sporty del Sol model. The 'SPF 15' pun calls attention to the car's best feature, its removable roof. 'We were looking for interesting ways to say the roof comes off and keep within the personality of the product,' says Bob Coburn, senior vp/associate cd, who created the ad in conjunction with art director Gary Yoshida and photographer Jim Hall of Lamb & Hall/L.A.
Sometimes a powerful headline can carry a billboard, as was the case with Stein Robaire Helm's winning Ikea ad: 'If you got your furniture for less, we're telling the police.' According to copywriter Court Crandall, he and art director Kirk Souder came up with the idea in a half-hour. 'They (Ikea) wanted something to drive traffic,' he says. 'Any billboard should be quick and hopefully funny.'
There must have been something in the air this year about appealing to a higher, or at least more threatening, authority. Consider Goldberg Moser O'Neill's effort for Reno Air on a billboard placed about halfway between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe. The headline for Reno Air reads, 'Our tickets are cheaper than theirs,' but the kicker is that beneath the billboard is a highway patrol car. Or rather, beneath the billboard is a rebuilt car painted to look like a patrol car. It's stocked with a dummy dressed in police uniform, complete with a stash of coffee and donuts.
Art director Paul Asao, who created the sign along with copywriters Jim Noble and Jeff Odiorne, notes that the California Highway Patrol told them the car looks so authentic that motorists passing by are actually hitting their brakes. (The slowdown gives drivers more time to soak in the message of the ad: that flying to Reno one-way costs only $35, while driving direct to nearby Tahoe can cost a speeding motorist up to 10 times as much in fines.)
'It's gotten a lot of good pr,' Asao says. 'I'm really proud of the piece because it's hard to find something that people can react to, instead of just reading.' He adds that the highway patrol seems to be pleased that the billboard is helping to keep speeding down in that particular area.
Some of the best billboards of '92 were an outgrowth of a successful TV campaign. Just when it seemed that Chiat/Day had done all that was possible for Nynex through its beloved 'human cartoon' campaign, art directors Dave Cook and Eric Houseknecht, along with copywriters Tom Miller and Dion Hughes (now creative director at Angotti, Thomas, Hedge), brought the visual puns to billboards and bus shelters in New York and New England.
The best of their efforts included an image of a dog armed with a blowtorch ('Spot Welding') and a tractor-tailor stuck on the prong of a giant utensil ('Forklift'). Such word-and-image play earned Chiat's Nynex series the Best of Show award in the '93 Obies.
Not every award-winning effort was to be found on a billboard over a freeway. Denizens of New York will recall a series of quirky, offbeat and memorable bus posters from DDB Needham that help teach pedestrians and commuters the proper way to pronounce the House of Seagram's Polish vodka Wybrowa ('Veebarova').
'The idea we came up with was so simple that we could execute it in any medium,' says Lori McNulty, the copywriter who created the series with art director Dave Rauch. 'The brand had been around but nobody knew how to say its name.' So McNulty and Rauch conceived a series of humorous stereotypes and showed how they would handle the vodka's strange name. For example, a backwater sheriff: 'Could say it, but won't.' A blue-blood debutante: 'Couldn't say it if her trust fund depended on it.' The idea was that 'their face would be in your face,' McNulty says. 'It's great to walk around and go out at lunch and see it.'
One of the more imaginative uses of out-of-home media came from copywriter Jay Williams and art director Bill Murphy of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos/Boston for The Boston Globe. On the boards at the Boston Garden (and not far from one of the goals) is this ad: 'Coverage that'll make you feel you were sitting here.' An arrow points to the front row seat directly behind the ad, one of the best seats in the house.
'The idea of putting a message that close to the action was intriguing,' says Williams. 'Hockey is probably the only sport where you can get that close. Our feeling was (the ad) was almost going to be part of the action.' Williams points out the board had the extra advantage of getting lots of free TV exposure during Bruins games. Unfortunately, he and Murphy, both avid Bruins fans, saw the airtime the ad would get cut short prematurely, as the Bruins were swept out in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last month.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)