Breaking through the clutter is one thing. Making a splash with an out-of-home campaign in the over-the-top, hyperdriven outdoor advertising environment that is New York City is another story. But MediaVest USA did just that with its work on behalf of Continental Airlines, this year’s Media Plan of the Year for Out-of-Home, using a toolbox of tricks ranging from the tried-and-true to the surprising, to a fun-filled New York Yankees tie-in that really hit one out of the park.

That MediaVest’s work managed to stand out from the crowd and deliver bang-up results is impressive enough. That the campaign promoted an airline, as competition among carriers—especially in the busy New York market—has become fiercer than ever makes it all the more remarkable.

While Continental advertises in other cities, “New York was our No. 1 priority. As home to three airports and with 44 airlines flying into New York, it is one of the—if not the—most competitive markets in the country,” says Lisa Farrell, MediaVest media director. (One of those airports, Newark Liberty International, happens to be a Continental hub.) “We tried to find a way to resonate with New Yorkers in their own language, in their own environment,” she says.

Others at MediaVest involved with the campaign include Norm Chait, vp, director of out-of-home; Meaghan Groom, assistant media director; Keith Klein, assistant media director; and Jayne Hong, media planner.

“[The MediaVest team], as New Yorkers, create advertising relevant to the daily routine and busy life of a New Yorker,” says Kevin McKenna, Continental’s managing director, brand marketing. “MediaVest’s media strategy and use of out-of-home and place-based creative executions have allowed us to effectively talk to our target throughout their day, in unexpected places and when other media simply would not reach them.”

To target the domestic and international frequent business traveler—Continental’s bread and butter—MediaVest slapped 1,600 outdoor sites with more than 100 variations of copy that employ the airline’s highly identifiable, tongue-in-cheek, oh-so-New York quippery, ending with the airline’s familiar, globe-inspired logo and the tagline “Work Hard. Fly Right.”

“We’ve got New York by the miles,” read a placard at a subway entrance in Chelsea. “Arrive in better shape,” urged a poster in the free-weight section of a popular health club. “The most international destinations. How do you think these people get home?” posited the side of a double-decker tour bus, decked out with Continental’s logo and signature color blue, parked outside the Empire State Building.

Other pieces reported the facts about Continental’s leg up over its rivals. “More Asia than American and Delta combined,” was the simple message plastered across an enormous, wraparound billboard right in the middle of Times Square.

The message was straightforward, but often it was the medium that grabbed the attention of passersby. “New daily nonstop service to Beijing.” That it appeared on the side of a noodle container from a Chinese restaurant was undeniably eye-catching, and undeniably creative.

Another unusual placement had a Continental ad wrapped around copies of Forbes magazine placed in the backseats of hired cars waiting to take Masters and Mistresses of the Universe to their next business meeting. MediaVest literally papered the town with a blitz of a buy that incorporated limo vouchers, commuter rail platforms, Captivate elevator monitors, dry-cleaning bags, the topside of taxicabs and entire subway trains.

As if all of that weren’t enough, Continental leveraged its relationship with the New York Yankees to snag an exclusive sponsorship of the “Pinstripes in the Park” event in midtown’s Bryant Park, featuring a public screening of an out-of-town Yanks game, hot dog vendors and all. Out-of-home venues such as Captivate and phone kiosks were used to drive traffic.

“We wanted to tie into the unique formats that the market had to offer,” says MediaVest’s Chait. “It is a pedestrian market, and we wanted to be at eye-level and talking to people by drilling down to key areas of Manhattan [frequented by businesspeople].”

The Continental ads were hard to miss and—good news for the airline and its agency—hard to forget. MediaVest reports 70 percent recall among the frequent business traveler target.

What’s more, 65 percent of those who did recall the campaign said it influenced their purchases.

All because of an in-your-face campaign in the most in-your-face town around.

As MediaVest’s Farrell says, “New York is more than just a city: It is a tribe, an attitude, a culture with several unique personalities and flavors. In order for Continental to infiltrate that culture and forge a relationship with New Yorkers, it [was] necessary to understand and embody that culture.”

Moo Goo Gai Pan anyone?

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