Outdoor

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Just as today’s musical artists resurrect the gems of giants from yesteryear (like Jack White’s cover here of Buddy Holly), graphic artists find unique ways to revitalize works from an earlier time.  An especially exciting locally based resource hit my radar when I was Christmas shopping in a local book store last month and so I bought a gift for myself — Fading Ads of Philadelphia by Lawrence O’Toole. This great coffee table chronicle captures some of the city’s surprisingly still vivid outdoor ads from another era. O’Toole has focused on ads painted on brick, some of which have not completely stood the test of time. But others are more than holding their own.

Fading Ads of Philadelphia

Fading Ads of Philadelphia by Lawrence O'Toole chronicles much of the city's advertising past.

Ironically, the same week I picked up his book, I happened to be paying a pilgrimage to Franklin Fountain for ice cream following a family outing to the Philadelphia Orchestra’s exceptional holiday concert. Returning to a rare available parking spot on North Front Street, I noticed some still prominent painted messages about metals on the white columns of the building near my meter. Turns out it had been home to Nathan Trotter Metals, a company that is still in business and operating in Coatesville and featured on pages 50 and 51 of Fading Ads of Philadelphia. Small world.

Just in case you have any difficulty tracking down a copy of O’Toole’s book published in 2012, the great news is that he has been documenting old ads on buildings in this city online for some time via a blog at GhostSignProject.com. Like all good branders and designers, O’Toole gives you many ways to follow the project, including Twitter, Facebook, and even soon an iPhone app that will let you capture your own sightings of old building-based outdoor ads. But I particularly encourage you to read the book, because there are a couple of very good Forwards, one by John Langdon that devotes a lot to typographic history, including somewhat recent history in this city at Armstrong Typography, and another by Frank Jump that touches on early national ad history contributions at Philadelphia’s NW Ayer. It is very cool that old Philadelphia ad history is new again.

One final thought — I am tired of hearing digital-only folks declare that print is dead. As great as digital is, its pixels are a lot more ephemeral than the inks used for books, magazines, billboards, and even outdoor murals. Thanks to Lawrence O’Toole for reminding us and finding so many amazing supporting examples.

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Adopt-A-Highway is one way to get some outdoor brand exposure and positive PR.

Adopt-A-Highway is one way to get some outdoor brand exposure and positive PR.

There are a lot of ways to contribute to the community and get some positive PR out of it. One that many of us see every day is the official sponsorship of a stretch of roadway under the local highway beautification program. However, this article gave me serious pause about government standards, slippery slopes, and whether every entity is a good candidate for this kind of citizenship initiative.

It’s going to take a lot more than litter clean-up for the Ku Klux Klan to overcome all the negatives associated with it. There’s some very bad history involving lynchings, cross burnings, and mob intimidation. A couple bag-fulls of fast food trash and tossed cigarette butts are not going to overcome people’s memories of racial hate crimes and white supremacy drives. I don’t care what kind of bleach you use in washing your sheets. Not all good PR is capable of overcoming really bad PR.

Interestingly enough, Adopt-A-Highway, the local PA arm of highway cleanup, Sponsor-A-Highway program, has a statement addressing the KKK story out of Georgia. They are obviously concerned about any associations with Grand Wizards, racial intimidation, and highway cleanup. Meanwhile, whenever I am stalled on the Schuylkill Expressway (which is often), I often find myself ruminating on the subject of who is and who isn’t a good sponsor of highway cleanup. For instance, I am often struck by the sign spotlighting Risque Video for their efforts. Of course, I am never stranded in traffic when scantily clad young ladies are out picking up trash on the side of the road. It is always burly looking guys in orange jumpsuits that I see.

Still, highway cleanup is a terrific cause and unless you are long associated with racial strife, most enterprises can benefit greatly from having their names on an outdoor sign heralding their support of this positive effort. It’s been a long time since a first lady focused the nation’s attention on our litter problem, but I will forever appreciate Lady Bird Johnson for helping to stem the trash tide.

Of course, the other association most people have is with this iconic TV commercial featuring a Native American who is profoundly saddened by the way his land is being mistreated.

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Just returning from a week in Southern California and wanted to share some pics from a couple billboards around Los Angeles. I thought I might see lots of new trends and cutting edge stuff.  Nothing quite that dramatic, but a few surprises nevertheless.

Lawyers and public transportation, perfect together.

Lawyers and public transportation, perfect together.

In only our second blog post, we noted that many attorneys had discovered bus boards as a way to reach accident victims. In CA, it’s not different, except for the language. Moving on to medicine. . .

And I thought the overcast skies were due to marine haze.

And I thought the overcast skies were due to marine haze.

Do you need to get a reeferal for seeing medical marijuana specialists?

Do you need to get a reeferal for seeing medical marijuana specialists?

This billboard in LA was a sad reminder that basketball great Magic Johnson is still living with HIV, but at least he is living well and still providing hope to many.

Magic Johnson is still offering hope to those with HIV.

Magic Johnson is still offering hope to those with HIV.

A trip to Dodgers Stadium to cheer on the Phils Monday night revealed that the Phils have a lot of fans who live in LA or are willing to travel. But also that they have a very different view of stadium food on the West Coast.

Only in LA are noodles considered stadium fare.

Only in LA are noodles considered stadium fare.

Finally, there was this reminder in Old Town San Diego that some of our best known brands have some very deep roots.

Wells Fargo once delivered other than financial solutions.

Wells Fargo once delivered other than financial solutions.

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52 posts in 52 weeks makes for a minor milestone (or a good excuse for a game of 52-card pickup).  But we’re proud to report that NewtonIdeas.net has reached the one-year mark.  In honor of the occasion, here are a few varied mini-stories of interest. Some even have something to do with marketing.

Even in the Wright Brothers era, advertising was helping to build business ventures.

Even in the Wright Brothers era, advertising was helping to build business ventures.

Advertising has long been the wind beneath business’s wings.

Spending President’s Day weekend in DC was refreshing for a lot of reasons. One was seeing this Wright Brothers era display from the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. A long time before Burma Shave ever hit the highways, the medium of outdoor advertising was practiced in some pretty creative ways on some remarkable canvases.

Two other reasons were the guided tour of the Capitol (the building itself gives you goosebumps, the prelude film is magnificent, first-rate audio headsets for all, and our tour guide was a polished gem eager to share information, as well as a very energetic senior who is living proof that retirement is overrated) and a cabdriver from Ghana who was this week’s embodiment of the American Dream. He has been driving a DC cab for five years to put himself through Howard University. He is currently studying five hours a day to take the CPA exam.

Back to earth courtesy of the current Congress.

This story from the Washington Post will tell you all you need to know about what happens when the second oldest profession takes on the oldest profession. Upon first seeing the headline about Harry Reid challenging prostitution, which is currently legalized in his home state of Nevada, I was perplexed. The explanations and the instant poll here are revealing of motives and politics (prostitution) as usual.

Softer side, my a@#.

Nothing agitates agencies more than having to do spec work to win business. Unless it is being told by the prospect that they will own your ideas even if you aren’t named agency of record and you won’t be compensated for them. According to Advertising Age, that is what Sears is doing in its current search and why many shops are fighting mad and turning down the opportunity. Interesting business model. I suggest shoplifters come armed with a copy of this story to discuss with Sears store security and ask why they aren’t entitled to something valuable for nothing as well.

Coupled with this news about Wal-Mart and you begin to wonder if there are any intelligent, common sense-oriented adults left in retail management. Two key takeaways from the Wal-Mart story: “Wal-Mart still is suffering a hangover from its overly aggressive effort last year to broaden its base of customers to include more affluent shoppers” AND “Wal-Mart this year has opted to return its marketing and its merchandise to a focus on its roots: low prices on everyday items.” Sam Walton must be spinning in his grave like a gyroscope.

The difference between PR and news.

A LinkedIn group I belong to has had a spirited discussion going this week on “pay for play” PR placements, and whether as a book author has suggested, it is the future model for public relations.  I don’t see it that way, but then a friend independently sent me this link, which amusingly approaches PR from the other direction — from the consumers of news side. Journalism vs. Churnalism. Are editors getting ever lazier and running press releases verbatim? Now, you can test the story you’re reading via this cheeky site. I am convinced we are all being put through a digital blender these days, for better and for worse. And for constant change and status quo challenges. It’s been an interesting first year of agency blogging. Looking forward to many more.

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I’m a sucker for a great teaser campaign. A print ad or a tv spot that sends you to a web site for the full story or at least another chapter. So, I was really interested this week driving up the New Jersey Turnpike to a trade show at the Javits Center to spot a billboard featuring the mystery message: Jersey Doesn’t Stink. The board was near Newark and chemical plant territory where there’s always a fragrant “polymer du jour,” which only intrigued me more.

Jersey Doesn't Stink

Jersey Doesn't Stink

A visit to Jersey Doesn’t Stink.com raised a few more questions than it answered. My first thought was that if someone is investing in billboards on the turnpike, they are on a mission. My first thought was a state agency. Tourism? Economic Development? A Trenton-based air freshener manufacturer? If you go to the fine print, an entity called Jersey Doesn’t Stink, LLC is behind the site. If you go on Google, you won’t find them. Hmmmmm. There is a page of sponsors, but there are only six, all of them small businesses or groups. The mystery deepens. Billboards cost a lot of money, so whose civic pride is bankrolling this effort?

The home page features the rallying cry: “We’re sick of the clichés. Are you sick of defending your home state against wisecracks?” There’s a humorous video clip, a petition, opportunities to share the site. Ultimately, the site is meant to be self-sustaining. There’s an online store selling shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs, etc. But since the counter indicates only 633 people have signed the petition, these folks may need a major broadcast buy to jumpstart e-commerce.

What constitutes armpit of the nation status? Joe Piscopo’s famous SNL routine. A renewal of MTV’s Jersey Shore, plus at least three other Jersey reality shows? The seamy side of the Sopranos? What counteracts the negative and the self-deprecation? Sinatra? Springsteen? Princeton? Victorian Cape May? Jersey tomatoes?

I have too many fond memories and frequent Garden State visits to ever dislike my Eastern neighbor. Which is why this effort unfortunately reminds me of the famous Ralph Waldo Emerson quotation, “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

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Video can close the deal. On line. In store.

Video can close the deal. On line. In store.

Interesting article from VentureBeat on encouraging study results when video is used online to boost sales of non-tech products like Air Wick.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4NOvPlpg70

Video is just a great way to engage prospects and now there are more places to do so than ever before. Sure, everyone who wants to go viral has a clip on YouTube. Plus, more and more web sites out there incorporate video promotion opportunities.

But the really amazing thing to me is how many other places that flat screens are showing up to sell people during downtime. You can find them at the local diner. At the grocery store (in produce, at deli, and at checkout). At the gas pump. In the back of NYC cabs. In local bars, and it sometimes follows, even over urinals.

The best uses I’ve seen include digital billboards that are the most engaging outdoor since Burma Shave. They feature rotating advertisers, the ability for advertisers to rotate their own messages, and even law enforcement APBs such as Amber Alerts.

Also, I was surprised, during a recent trip to Wal-mart to find more video displays on end caps. For many years, Wal-mart was a bare bones shopping environment. There weren’t many options for POP displays, let alone digital signage. Times have changed for the better.

Well done point-of-sale videos, whether they are TV commercials or a dedicated sales presentation about the product, are a great way to close the deal. You’re engaging buyers when they’re filling their shopping carts. Why aren’t all package goods companies and retailers investing in in-store video? Then, posting them online, on their web sites, on YouTube, and on as many other locations as possible for driving traffic?

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On the (Accident) Scene

On the (Accident) Scene 2

Not sure that two ads constitute a trend, but I was amused to be behind two SEPTA buses recently (North Philadelphia and Plymouth Meeting) and to see bus boards for two different personal injury lawyers. Talk about advertising where the rubber meets the road. About the only better media buy would be a mobile phone ad that is delivered immediately following an accident in which the driver has been texting while driving. Maybe OnStar is working on the technology.

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