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  • Shems Ghali

A Famous Rusty Billboard

Dear World,

Although travel to most countries isn’t on the cards for all of us (or face a dooming 2-week quarantine), if you’ve been lucky enough to go to Vienna or even live there you might have seen the billboard that was built to rust

Targeted towards “design-conscious urban professionals”, Tyrolit and ad agency Heimat Wien Austria created a confusing metal billboard that was placed in the centre of Vienna. A blank sheet with just the brand name Tyrolit, in small text, pinned across the front.

Unlike most billboard campaigns this ad doesn’t create an immediate effect on consumer consciousness, and actually took around 30 days to reveal its full message. For this billboard to work, it needed to rust. Doused in a saltwater spray to speed up the effect of the decay, the image finally began to reveal itself: a silhouette of a knife surrounded by rust to match their tagline “Flawless Forever”. This clever campaign was designed to showcase the durability of the Swarovski Group-owned brand’s Iceline line of cutlery. It took a week for the very first signs of the message to appear and around a month for it to have created its desired effect.

However, this isn’t the first campaign that’s been sensitive to time. Back in 2011 Coca-Cola collaborated with the WWF and created a 60x60 foot billboard in the Philippines engulfed in tea plants, which absorbed air pollution and showcased the importance of sustainability to the brand.

More recently Herbal Essences created a billboard embedded with wildflower seeds. In London, people could pick a leaf from the poster and plant it themselves to grow flowers to increase habitats for insects to flourish in. (Save the bees and butterflies!)

These obviously take a lot of time to make an impact, so if you don’t have 30 days (or time to wait for a flower to grow) why not look at the BBC's immersive Dracula billboard campaign for inspiration which took only 12 hours to grab people’s attention for their launch of the TV series. A play on light and shadows.

Why are these campaigns so effective? It could be the excitement of anticipation or the increased involvement these billboards have with consumers, maybe the messages even resonate.

What we like about them at OMTM is it slows down time. There’s a want to see an instant effect or influence from marketing campaigns in our industry, along with living in an instant world where everything is immediately available. This means ideas like these can often be disregarded for not cutting through straight away...

But these are great examples of useful insight, to show there can be a need for patience when getting results and that it pays off. These ads are so different that they have the power to get people talking... get the excitement started early... connect on a deeper level. And since the pandemic, where the pace of life has slowed right down, it feels like they fit in even better now than before - what do you think?

Speak soon,


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