Advertising, like many areas of business, endured a difficult 2020. But the future is starting to look a little brighter, especially when it comes to out of home (OOH) advertising.

In fact, the World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC) has projected that 2021 will see OOH re-emerge as the second-fastest growing advertising medium, with a cumulative increase of 20% (or $36.3 billion) forecast overall.

But this isn’t to say that outdoor advertising all went quiet last year! We’ve seen a number of great campaigns across the country over the last 12 months. So here are some of the very best:

Go Green With O2’s Living Billboard

They say that the best billboards are interactive, and O2 certainly appear to have heeded this message last year.

Make no mistake; the telecommunication brand’s ‘Go Green’ initiative certainly compelled target customers to interact further with their message, while proving more than capable of engaging them over an extended period of time.

The centrepiece of this four-week campaign was undoubtedly the deployment of a plantable living billboard, which was located in Shoreditch at the bustling corner of Commercial Street and Quaker Street.

In terms of composition, this large-scale ad features hundreds of recycled pistachio stems, which gradually fell away to reveal an environmentally friendly ‘Go Green’ message over the course of its two-week booking.

As if this wasn’t enough; passers-by were also greeted by smaller, recyclable A6 posters that had been made entirely from wildflower seed paper.

These could be torn off and removed, and then used to grow plants in the comfort of your own home.

The key focus of the overarching campaign was clearly to create positive experiences for target audiences to enjoy, as a way of bringing fun to a subject that’s incredibly serious and increasingly pressing in the modern age.

This helped the campaign to build further awareness around issues of sustainability, while its ability to engage customers over an extended period of time also drove higher levels of brand recognition.

Light Relief With Lovehoney

While national lockdowns have inherently negative connotations, some will argue that spending more time at home has at least a handful of perks.

This includes spending more time with your partner, and this is definitely something that the intimate brand Lovehoney used to their advantage during their ‘Light Relief in Lockdown’ campaign.

The beauty of this campaign is that it highlighted the immense opportunity available to some brands in 2020, particularly those that could still target high volumes of passing traffic in busy commuter areas.

The Light Relief in Lockdown campaign was created by Brave, and ran on several Ocean Outdoor screens across strategic London locations for a period of two weeks.

One of the most striking elements of the campaign was its ability to seamlessly leverage new vocabulary such as ‘social distancing’, ‘lockdown’ and ‘masks’, creating relevant content while presenting this in a fresh and playful manner.

The brand also kept its messaging inherently simple and clearly visible against clean and brightly coloured backdrops, allowing the customer to appreciate the humour and immediately associate this with the now iconic Lovehoney logo.

An undoubted ray of light during very dark times, this campaign was definitely one of the best and most enjoyable of 2020!

Tapping Into New Technologies With Huawei

Binaural recording has become one of the key audio technologies of the last decade, with this technique effectively using two microphones to create immersive and three-dimensional sound.

The beauty of contemporary and 360-degree binaural recording systems is that they successfully emulate the workings of the human head, primarily in terms of understanding how we comprehend and process the sounds that we hear.

Last year saw Huawei partner with Pablo and Felt Music’s binaural sound experts to leverage this technology as part of its ‘Sonic Escapes’ ad campaign.

This saw the creation of several ads that combined vivid colours with three-dimensional audio, putting audience members at the centre of unique and fully immersive getaways to exotic locations such as Morocco, Jamaica and Mexico.

Each ‘Sonic Escape’ lasts for up to 10 minutes, during which time they capture exciting adventures from the depths of the seas to the heart of the jungle and the sun-kissed streets of Kingston.

Just like O2’s ‘Go Green’ campaign, this tech-led marketing piece compelled customers to interact with the underlying messaging, creating fantastic levels of engagement and a viable escape for commuters during their daily routine.

As a contemporary embodiment of dynamic entertainment content, this campaign was also ideally timed to provide respite from the mundanity of lockdown. This was backed up by the figures too, with Huawei reporting more than 2.5 million downloads during the first week alone.

#PostersForThePeople – Why Simple Advertising is Still the Best

One of the main appeals of OOH advertising is its capacity for simplicity, as we’ve already seen with Lovehoney’s ‘Light Relief With Lockdown’ campaign.

The same spirit of simplicity and clarity of thought was continued by Atomic’s ‘#PostersForThePeople#’ campaign, which ran throughout 2020 and garnered the support of more than 70 brands including ASDA, Just Eat and Evian.

In simple terms, the campaign published a slew of bold and colourful ads, each of which contained a single upbeat message set against a bright backdrop.

One particular ad ran with the slogan ‘Save The World. In Just Your Slippers.’, which sat neatly against a bright blue summer’s sky. Another read ‘Smells Like Community Spirit’, while both entities featured the #PostersForThePeople hashtag beneath the primary content.

The obvious objective here was to share widespread messages of hope and encouragement during stressful times, while highlighting the growing importance of unity and the need to show support for those around us.

The simplistic approach definitely helped marketers to achieve this goal, by using bold colours to engage viewers and creating a vehicle in which the core messaging could shine.

From a technical perspective, the campaign also used concise messaging of no more than seven words, creating punchy and unrelentingly positive content that’s undeniably relatable.

Fingerlickin’ Good Advertising From KFC

Whenever you see a collection of the best billboards or OOH campaigns from a particular year, you’ll most likely find an entry from KFC listed somewhere in the pecking order.

This fast food brand certainly isn’t afraid to do things properly, with its 2020 Fingerlickin’ ad campaign built around KFC’s now-iconic slogan and the delicious nature of its unmistakable original recipe chicken.

In fact, this simple campaign uses playful messaging and high quality imagery to reinforce what is arguably KFC’s most unique selling point; the taste of its chicken.

Each individual ad features a single customer enjoying their KFC in real-time, capturing the precise moment when they lick their fingers to capture every last morsel of fried chicken.

Cleverly packaged as part and parcel of the whole KFC experience, the visual representation of ‘fingerlickin’ food proved incredibly impactful and boldly reminded customers just how tasty a Kentucky Fried Chicken Bucket can be!

The brand also uses the concise message ‘It’s Good’, with these words positioned either side of the model’s mouth in each image. This represents a smart and creative touch, adding another dimension to the visual rather than detracting from the power of the images.

This campaign reminded us that when you have a clear brand identity, just how simple marketing can be! However, while we think this campaign was one of the best of the year, KFC pulled the ads last March, amid concerns around encouraging customers to lick their fingers during the pandemic.

And Now for Something Completely Different – Could You Use a Needle at Nine Years Old?

We close with a much more thought provoking campaign, and one that used simple copy to really capture the minds of individuals.

The ads in question were designed to raise awareness about the Create charity, which does a huge amount of work for young carers in the UK. This is a sadly overlooked issue in the UK, with more than 700,000 young carers currently looking after an older relative nationwide.

These individuals take up to 20 hours of caring responsibilities each week, while some care for more than 50.

To reinforce the stark and pressing nature of this challenge, VCCP and Global Street Art conspired to create a series of OOH ads that featured the words ‘Could You Use a Needle at 9 Years Old?’

This lettering was painted in red against a stark, black backdrop, creating an eye-catching contrast that emboldened the messaging and made a considerable impact in the minds of viewers.

There’s no doubt that the dramatic nature of the advert is ideal for the purpose of building awareness, while the bare simplicity of the messaging also provokes thought amongst viewers and challenges them to learn more about the issue at hand.

The decision to maintain a simple creative was also key to the success of the campaign, as it strikes the ideal balance between engaging audiences and respecting the gravity of the subject matter.

The Last Word

So there you have it – six of the best OOH ad campaigns that ran throughout what was a uniquely challenging year.

Each of these ad campaigns captured the essence of creativity and simple innovation, to make the most of OOH real estate.

With 2021 expected to be a stellar year for outdoor advertisers, we look forward to seeing even more eye-catching campaigns over the next 12 months.