Wrap Up Of The Best OOH Ads Of 2020

2020 is a year that many want to forget. The worldwide pandemic led to a major halt in the advertising world, as everyone scrambled to figure out what their next steps should be. Although Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising did take a major hit this year, many companies chose to embrace the medium as the most effective way to communicate with consumers. According to CARTO, a leading location intelligence platform, OOH advertising is currently an $8 billion industry in the U.S., a figure that is expected to double by 2023. This is despite the setback that the pandemic has caused the industry. OOH is a medium that is adapting to the increasingly data-driven world and will continue to do so in the coming years. Meanwhile, this past year the OOH industry proved its prowess despite the pandemic and revealed some extremely unforgettable OOH campaigns that lead to some truly inspiring moments. Let’s have a look at some of this year’s OOH ads, ones that took the world by storm and made everything just a little bit easier to bear.

Fantastic Creative

More than ever before, advertisers across the board have had to become extremely creative in terms of execution and design. Beginning in March, consumers were only leaving their houses to get essential items, which meant that targeting anyone with an outdoor ad became increasingly difficult. However, OOH advertisements like the ones below, perfected the creative aspect of their campaigns, making them extremely noticeable and easy to engage with.

An image of three of the same billboard for the new show on BBC called Dracula just at different times of the day.

The team at BBC Creative produced an extremely innovative campaign for a new TV series that they were promoting called Dracula. During the day, the billboard that BBC erected in both London and Birmingham consisted of a jumble of stakes that appeared to be stabbed onto the billboard. By night, the shadow revealed the silhouette of a fang-toothed being that resembled the infamous Dracula character. Below the billboard BBC placed a glass case that contained a stake and read the words, “In case of vampires – break glass.” The ingenuity of the campaign was admired by all, which led to it winning the Grand Prix and 100,000 pounds worth of media space at the 2020 Outdoor Media Awards along with the best Installation and Experience Award at the same event. This campaign will definitely be celebrated for years to come as one of the most creative outdoor ads of its time.

McDonald’s made quite the stir this year through a number of outdoor ad campaigns. One that really stood out was called the “Iconic stacks,” created in collaboration with Leo Burnett London and typographer David Schwen. There aren’t many brands that can put out a series of billboard ads without their product, logo, or even their name. McDonald’s is popular enough to be one brand that can do all of this and still have consumers recognize exactly who they are. McDonald’s went for a minimalist approach by creating a word stack of their most beloved items. Leo Burnett set out to test the consumers’ knowledge of the classic ingredients within McDonald’s menu items. For example, one billboard simply displayed the words, “Muffin, Egg, Sausage, Cheese, Muffin,” all stacked one on top of the other – like a sandwich. McDonald’s continues to outdo itself in terms of its creative OOH campaigns and this one is no different. The campaign was well-received by advertisers and consumers alike as a simple yet innovative way to advertise the product that everyone already knows and loves.

Pandemic Related Ads

This year has been extremely tough for so many people. Not only are we unable to see our loved ones during lockdown, we’ve also lost some of them along the way. The pandemic has caused a colossal amount of unrest, anxiety, and gloom – leaving people feeling miserable and disheartened. Some very exceptional brands have taken the time to pay tribute to those who have suffered this year by using their platform to make them feel a little less alone in the world. Let’s take a look at some OOH advertisements that created campaigns with class and hope in mind.

The infamous fast food company, McDonald’s, has shocked and inspired once again in 2020 with their campaign called, “The M Effect,” in collaboration with ad agency TBWA. For kids all over the world, the lockdown restrictions have taken away many of the fun things that they love to do. McDonald’s Belgium decided to pay tribute to all the kids who’ve been staring out their windows this year. Through posters, print ads, billboards, and social media, McDonald’s has captured the feeling that children get when they spot the golden arches through a window. Various children are displayed on the ads expressing excitement, happiness, and hope as they stare at the McDonald’s sign. There’s no other text or McDonald’s signature to convey the brand, just simply the image with the logo in the reflection of the cars. This was an extremely impactful campaign and demonstrated to viewers that it’s time to cherish the little things more than ever.

This past summer the advertising agency Bel-Ami along with JCDecaux created an OOH advertising campaign pro-bono to show gratification for the hardworking healthcare workers who have continuously put their lives on the line throughout the pandemic. The campaign was first deployed in the streets of Paris and later along the path of a local demonstration by nurses and doctors in June. Bel-Ami’s, “#Lifealwaystriumphs,” billboards and posters portrayed different healthcare workers in various poses with the Nelson Mandela quote beside them that read, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” The goal of the campaign was to show the eternal appreciation we have for healthcare workers by revealing their faces and their names, all while they do their miracle work. The images depict doctors and nurses with a joy for life, despite the hardships they undertake every day, which was summed up perfectly with the hashtag, “#Lifealwaystriumphs.”

In Italy over the summer, after almost 60 days of quarantine, citizens were looking forward to entering into Phase 2 where they would be able to move more freely as restrictions were slightly lifted. In preparation for the new rules put in place by the Italian government and health officials during Phase 2, FinecoBank, an independent multi-channel bank, created an ad campaign that would remind people how to stay safe and careful during the pandemic. With the help of McCann Worldgroup Italy, FinecoBank created the first ever digital OOH display that is readable only from more than one meter away. Using an optical illusion, the words on the displays would be blurred and would only become clearer as you moved farther away. All of the ads displayed a simple yet evocative message, “MAINTAIN ONE METER APART. INVEST IN YOUR SAFETY.” Not only was the display extremely clever in its execution, it also conveyed to all those that saw it, just how valuable security and safety is during the pandemic, despite the more lenient Phase 2 rules.

Social Justice Ads

2020 was also a year that sparked social, political, and economic unrest – especially across North America. The world watched as the Black Lives Matter movement took to the streets beginning in May of this year, as rallies and protests raised overwhelming awareness about racial injustice in America. The BLM movement quickly became a worldwide call to action. People began to hold companies and brands accountable for both their actions and inactions. Although some advertisements surrounding racial injustice were seen as distasteful and even offensive, coming off as just another cash-grab, others were able to effectively educate and inform the public about racial issues and stand in alliance with those that have been subjected to racism.

An image of a massive billboard ad by Zambezi. It's just a black background with white lettering.

The advertising agency called Zambezi created a campaign in response to the cultural events and racial injustice that they’ve witnessed over this year. The agency created a social media and OOH campaign that displayed messages such as, “My Solidarity is Action,” and, “My Silence is Deadly”. The key messages of the campaign were deployed by Zambezi’s black employees that were then amplified by the creative designers. What began as a small community-based campaign, quickly became a massive advertising movement spanning across 11 major markets in the U.S. with 58 billboards. The goal of the campaign was to spread awareness and Zambezi was able to do exactly that – especially through the help of Quan Media who generously provided the outdoor ad spaces free of cost.

Two images of huge billboards created by Twitter displaying tweets about BLM.

To mark the anniversary of the emancipation of slavery in America, Twitter created a billboard campaign across 8 U.S. cities. The social media giant handpicked specific tweets in order to amplify the voices of those affected by racism and those seeking change. Twitter selected cities that had the most impactful protests including Atlanta, Chicago, Louisville, Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Philadelphia. Twitter wanted to impact communities that are actively seeking change. The goal of the campaign was to continue to amplify the voices of those most affected after the protests died down, and to demonstrate solidarity to those affected.

Tongue-In-Cheek Ads

One thing we all really needed this year was humour in order to keep us sane and to provide us with some happiness, even though it was few and far between. There were a number of witty OOH advertising campaigns that were created this year, bringing some levity to a year plagued by disappointments.

An image of a giant billboard about Brexit. Simple, just black background with white writing.

Bitpanda, an interface for cryptocurrency investors, created an OOH ad campaign alongside Unfold advertising agency, in order to poke fun at all of the British citizens that voted for Brexit. The campaign was simple and straightforward but with a message that mattered, “Millions of people can’t be wrong. Unless they’re British.”, calling out those who voted for Brexit and told them that they made the wrong choice. The campaign was simple in its execution but witty with its message, sending a ripple effect of engagement across the country and making quite the political statement.

When it became common knowledge that staying home and socially distancing helps to decrease the spread of COVID-19, Netflix created an OOH ad campaign that they thought would help ensure that people were following these guidelines. They created an OOH campaign called, “#StayTheFuckHome,” in collaboration with Miami Ad School that placed billboards that displayed spoilers of everyone’s favourite Netflix shows. The goal of the campaign was to discourage people from going outside and gathering together, which was tied together nicely with the caption, “If the virus doesn’t stop you from going out, these spoilers will”. The campaign was widely received and praised for its cheeky play on the government regulations, while at the same time, informing people of the consequences of not staying home.

Wrap Up

It sure has been a year to remember and it’s quite impressive how well OOH advertisers were able to adapt to such an extremely devastating year for the industry. The resilience that OOH advertisers showed throughout 2020 has provided a unique steppingstone for future projects. Above all else, this year has demonstrated that OOH advertisers are ready for anything that comes their way, making them a flexible and adaptable investment. As we leave the misfortunes of 2020 in the dust, not only do we reminisce on the parts that made it special, but we also look toward a brighter and even more inventive 2021.

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