Most memorable political OOH ads

billboard with the text "Vote Tuesday, November 6"

One of the biggest and most important U.S. Presidential Elections took place earlier this month and the buzz surrounding it still hasn’t died down. As we count down to the new term in January 2021, let’s go down memory lane and take a look back at some of the most memorable political OOH campaigns throughout the years.

 Why OOH advertising for political campaigns?

The most important thing to include in a political advertising campaign, even more so than a transparent and detailed platform, is a clear message that can make a good and loud impression on the public and that is remembered for days. This is why a huge amount of money is poured into tailored TV ads, radio messages, and giant, bright, and colorful billboards with a memorable tagline and with the face of the candidates. OOH has been proven to be the perfect medium in getting the messages out to one’s political advantage, especially in a wide media mix. Outdoor ads are the best way to reach a mass audience, regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity, which is essentially the main goal of a political campaign – to reach as many people as possible. Simultaneously, OOH is hyper-locally targeted, meaning it can easily be tailored to different areas according to what works better in certain regions. For example, billboard texts can change to fit the area’s biggest concern. by working hand-in-hand with other mediums – OOH proves to not only be perfectly in sync with other mediums, but also enhances the impact and reach radius of such mediums. Moreover, OOH can be relatively more cost-effective when compared to traditional outlets like television ads, while still having a high ROI rate, which is always a good aspect to consider in any campaign-even political ones.

With that in mind, here are some of the most impressive and creative political OOH campaigns to date.

Billboard by NRSC with the text "Teresa Tomlinson, too Liberal for Georgia", with the faces of 3 candidates

AOC’s lively campaign

In 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Latina from a working-class family, opened her campaign to run for Congress in New York. Up against 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley and his simple and outdated posters with the usual color scheme of red, white, and blue, which can be found in almost any other campaign, Ocasio-Cortez and her team had decided to think outside the box and use vibrant colors of yellow, purple, and blue instead. Each color had its own meaning – yellow for positivity, purple for unity, and blue for tradition, as it is the represented hue of the Democratic party.

Additionally, the posters also featured the Spanish exclamation point, leaning into her heritage to give off an inclusive vibe for the Hispanic population, which accounts for 49% of NY-14’s population.  

When putting the posters of the 2 candidates side-by-side, even just from a glance, anyone can see which one is more enticing. With this extremely successful OOH campaign complementing her progressive agenda, it’s no surprise that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was named victor in the 2018 midterm election.

Alexandrio Ocasio-Cortez truck-side ad with the colors blue and yellow

Biden For President 2020

As one of the main candidates for the presidential seat, Biden Harris’ advertising campaign was without a doubt planned and executed very carefully on every platform, from TV ads, to OOH billboards and posters. One of the focal points of his campaign was the creation and meaning behind his logo for this political cycle. When Biden’s official logo for the 2020 election was released a year ago, it instantly got the attention of the mass public with the creative yet familiar 3-red lines for the letter “E” in Biden. Mekanism, his creative agency based in San Francisco, stated the 2 main layers of meaning to this design,“a nod to the American flag”, representing his effort and investment in the country, and also resembles his familiarity with the 3 stripes in Obama’s “O” back when the former President was running his own campaign. Thus, billboards and posters were put up across the nation to tactically send a patriotic and familiar message to the public, along with Biden’s personal imprint.

A woman posing next to her garage with the door painted Biden Harris' logo

Mike Bloomberg’s Trump-roasting campaign

While the majority of campaigns focus on showcasing the face of a candidate to get their name imprinted into the minds of voters using big and bold texts, there are also various campaigns and ads taking a different route, dedicating their message to roasting their opponents.

During his run for the presidential seat in 2020 and besides his own campaign to push out and promote his platform and ideology, Mike Bloomberg and his team had found some extra time and money to take a jab at his opponent Donald Trump. Earlier this year, the campaign went all out and put up big bright billboards in Las Vegas and Phoenix with simple but straight-to-the-point text. Some messages were funny and silly like, “Donald Trump cheats at golf. Mike Bloomberg doesn’t.”, while some were a bit more personal like, “Donald Trump’s wall fell over.”, or, “Donald Trump went broke running a casino.” The roasting immediately took over Twitter and was an extremely successful campaign in terms of  getting people’s lasting impression.

Billboard by Mike Bloomberg in 2020 with the text "Donald Trump Eats Burnt Steak. Mike Bloomberg likes his medium rare."

Republican for Biden campaign

Even though the main campaigns are correlated with a candidate’s media team, often we also see their supporters actively contribute in pushing the candidate even more with their own small-scale campaigns and paid ads, usually in the form of billboards and posters.

One of the most noticeable campaigns made by the common people was the committee named “Republican Voters Against Trump”, or RVAT for short. In light of the 2020 Election, they had spent $20 million in launching a mass campaign across the nation, including crucial swinging states like Pennsylvania and Arizona. While in each region the featured face on the billboard is different, they all sent the same message, “I’m a Republican. I’m voting for Biden.”. The message couldn’t be any clearer and instantly sparked conversations across America as a direct hit to Trump’s administration – a group of Republicans, former Republicans, and former Trump supporters, gathered up and openly expressed their support for his opponent. The campaign blew up so much that they got several former Trump officials (Miles Taylor, Olivia Troye) as well as high-profile individuals (Michael Hayden, Jim Kolbe) endorsing it and joining in.

Billboard by RVAT with the text "I'm a Republican. I'm a veteran. I'm voting Biden." and the feature face of a representative of said quote

Reddit’s Up the Vote

Besides people trying to put out their message in supporting a certain candidate or a party, there are also multiple groups planning campaigns and erecting billboards throughout the election period, in the hopes of encouraging more people to go out and vote, especially the younger generations.

As one of the biggest online all-purpose platforms, this year Reddit felt the dire need to use their platform to fulfill a cause. As for their first major advertising campaign, the site’s creators decided on encouraging more people to vote in the 2020 U.S. Election. Multiple OOH billboards with Reddit’s signature color, bright orange, were put up in 4 major cities – Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York – with witty yet powerful messages. Some of these messages included, “This bread stapled to a tree got more votes on Reddit than it took to decide the 2000 presidential election.” Along with these messages was a series of Q&A sessions held on the site itself where people could go to get information about casting their vote, including detailed instructions for first-time voters.

Reddit's Up the vote billboard with a photo of a cat and the text "The 2000 presidential election hinged on 537 votes. On Reddit, this bodega cat got 729."

Bonus: The Four Horsemen of Brexit campaign

A political campaign doesn’t necessarily just mean one that’s planned during the electoral cycle, it can also be held when an important national decision happens, in this case, Brexit. The political campaign, Led By Donkeys, is probably the most talked about effort during the discussion to vote for Brexit. Founded in December 2018 by four men, the campaign consisted of billboards showing past statements from several British politicians that were contradicting and inconsistent throughout the years, showing the hypocrisy towards the matter. It was such a successful hit that, while it only started as a guerilla project, it blew up massively in the U.K. and finally got backed up through crowdfunding and legitimate billboard spaces were purchased. It even won industry awards in 2019 and 2020.

Even though the vote turned in favor of the U.K. separating from the EU, this OOH campaign is still one of the most brilliant political campaigns out there.

Billboard by Led By Donkey, displayed as a tweet by Theresa May saying "I believe it is clearly in our national interest to remain a member of the European Union."

Wrapping Up

More than any other type of campaigning, political campaigns always need to find a way to stand out in the crowd and create positive awareness to the mass audience. As can be seen through the examples above, OOH has the ability to satisfy all the conditions to create a successful political campaign. By using OOH to its fullest potential with a creative twist on branding, it can play an important role in influencing the public’s opinion.

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