Knowledge Ages Quickly, as Shown by This Ad That Grew Mold on a Classic Marketing Book

BBDO Ukraine's out-of-home stunt promoted an industry forum

Headshot of David Griner

There’s still much to be learned from books written by the great minds of advertising’s golden age, but it’s hard to deny that almost any advice printed to the page quickly becomes dated in today’s digitally driven world.
To illustrate that point, and boost turnout at an upcoming IdeasFirst Ukrainian Marketing Forum, BBDO Ukraine created an out-of-home ad that featured a large edition of Kotler on Marketing by U.S. advertising Professor Philip Kotler. The book was slathered with millions of mold spores before being encased in an ad display at an office and commercial location.
After a few days in a “standby mode” inside the display, the mold grew rapidly and covered the book in a distorting layer of fuzz and discoloration. The result was oddly and disturbingly beautiful in its own way, and as you can see from the case study below, it certainly drew plenty of attention.

Creating a way to grow mold rapidly in a public display proved to be quite a challenge, the agency says. Here’s a summary of the process, provided by BBDO Ukraine:
“In order to get the project to work, we prepared a special layout for the book with perforations for moisture. We experimented to find a material that would allow the mold to spread. We created an environment that was conducive to growing the desired mold while preventing harmful bacteria from disrupting the mold growth. After several unsuccessful attempts, we had to completely abandon the use of toxic materials. We dried out a couple of mold populations and were forced to redesign the citylight panel’s wall construction. This helped create the ideal microclimate, from the illumination to the humidity to the temperature. In short, it was much more difficult than just leaving out a loaf of bread for a week and getting results.”
It’s worth noting this is one of the few ad campaigns you’ll see where the credits include a microbiologist.
The project’s self-destructive nature has sparked a few criticisms, according to the creatives who worked on it.
“We are faced with a wave of haters, adherents of classical marketing and fans of Kotler who think that we scoff at something holy,” BBDO Ukraine creative director Den Keleberdenko tells Adweek. “At the same time, we stirred up new generation of marketers who are open to the world and innovation in marketing.”
Check out more images from the installation:

BBDO Ukraine

BBDO Ukraine
BBDO Ukraine

Agency: BBDO Ukraine
Executive Creative Director: Anze Jereb
Creative Director: Denis Keleberdenko
Senior Copywriter: Julia Kolesnik
Art Director: Maria Plotnikova
Head of Design Studio: Maria Teterin
Designers: Togzhan Slyamgaliyeva, Kseniya Milchenko, Alexandr Onatsky
Account Manager: Alisa Komm
Client Service Director: Irina Danilevskaya
CEO: Victor Ishkov
Client: IdeasFirst
Managing Director: Iryna Bondarenko
Product Manager: Olga Garaschenko
Cameraman: Anton Ivanov
Microbiologist: Galeb Al-Maali, Candidate of Biological Sciences, Junior researcher
Production: 5LINES
Managing Director: Olga Tolkunova
Producer: Ivan Kovalskiy
Holding Megapolis
Department Head, Ambient Project Production: Viacheslav Sandalchuk
Department Head, Ambient Project Implementation: Natalia Perfileva
Razom Communications
CEO: Dariya Kabanova
Non-TV Media Director: Yana Sereda
Havas Media Ukraine
Managing Director: Alina Kotenko

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@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."