On Sunday night, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri scored Oscar wins for its stars, Frances McDormand (best actress) and Sam Rockwell (best supporting actor). The billboard industry thanked the film for bringing attention back to billboards with, well, a few Three Billboards-inspired billboards. (Say that five times fast.)
“We wanted to cheer on the movie with ‘billboard’ in the title, showcase capabilities of modern outdoor—to adapt quickly, change copy and display great creative—and then thirdly, to have some fun with this,” said Ken Klein, evp of government affairs at the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), of the congratulatory billboards. “We probably won’t see this alignment, where there is a seven-time Academy Award-nominated film with ‘billboard’ in the title again, so we wanted to make hay while sun was shining.”
The film, which premiered last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival, has been on the awards circuit for months; McDormand and Rockwell picked up hardware at nearly every major awards show, culminating Sunday evening with their Oscar wins. During that time, the film’s use of billboards—McDormand’s character uses three billboards to question the police department’s handling of her daughter’s murder—has inspired a number of copycats.
“The three billboards imagery became a visual meme in a short period of time as people expressed political opinions on things like gun control [after the shooting in] Parkland, Fla. or the apartment fire in London,” said Klein. “It connected to culture in a short amount of time.”
While the OAAA didn’t use the same three-billboard tactic as the film, it did try to mimic the graphics with all-caps black lettering on a red background for the congratulatory billboards. Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Extra Credit Projects handled the creative. The OAAA also used congratulatory billboards for the film after other awards shows including the Golden Globes (above).