Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

From Flipkart to Google, brands are making billboards great again

Companies want their outdoor ads to make a splash on social media

Published: Oct 10, 2023 03:53:07 PM IST
Updated: Oct 10, 2023 04:33:05 PM IST

From Flipkart to Google, brands are making billboards great againSome long-term outdoor campaigns, generally at fixed spots, have become landmarks in India. Image: Shutterstock

Brand managers have a newfound “obsession” of making outdoor advertising shareable and popular on social media, the chief of the creative agency told Storyboard18 on condition of anonymity.

“By taking this approach, success is measurable and the idea becomes larger-than-life too,” the chief added.

Such briefs are becoming common because new-age brands have made big outdoor splashes via social media. Here is what and how it’s happening.

E-commerce giant Flipkart caught the attention of social media users with its latest outdoor campaign for its annual ‘The Big Billion Days’ sale.

A billboard that proclaimed: “If your boss gives chutti to watch IND vs AFG the price of iPhone 14 will drop by Rs 4000/- on The Big Billion Days. Send saboot (proof) tagging @flipkart” went viral, catching the attention of netizens for all the right reasons.

In another instance, a user on X posted pictures of billboards of Sony, Puma, Samsung, Asus, and Flipkart. The e-commerce company’s message was: “There are 7 ads around us. Har ad mein jo dikhta hai, wo Flipkart pe milta hai (All the products in the ads are available on Flipkart).” The piece was conceptualised by Leo Burnett India.

Tech giant Google recently rolled out an out-of-home campaign that went viral. Titled "Yeh kisne dhoonda?" which translates to "Who searched for this?" Google plastered billboards in Delhi and Mumbai. The billboards had questions that users look for on Google Search.

Bengaluru-based indie shops Talented and the New Thing worked on this campaign.

Talented was also involved in the mega-billboard campaign for Britannia’s Milk Bikis in Tamil Nadu. The company and the agency put up 80-plus billboards across the state. Inspired by Tamil movie posters of the eighties and nineties, each billboard was customised to the location and there were over 45 copy variations.

Gautam Reghunath, co-founder of Talented, said social media-led outdoor campaigns have more gravitas.

“We have worked on a few outdoor-social campaigns and what we have learnt is that these viral opportunities help us generate real-time reactions and deeper interaction. The approach is not message blasting. It is pure work of call to action,” he said.

Reghunath told Storyboard18 that brands gain instant fame and the internet talks about it widely. These campaigns travel faster on the internet because agencies like Talented understand the distribution strategy well.

Also read: Polyamoryfication of adland: Why are brands getting together with multiple agency partners?

“We are trying to tell clients that outdoors is not an isolated boring media distribution network. There is so much unexplored about the medium,” he said.

Simplicity wins

Some long-term outdoor campaigns, generally at fixed spots, have become landmarks in India. Among them is dairy brand Amul, which has reserved specific hoarding sites across the country that have now become landmarks. Amul’s campaigns have a blend of vitality and recall.

Omkar Joshi, founder of digital-first consulting shop hybrid, said these types of outdoor campaigns are a great way of splashing ideas and creating user-generated content.

“Organically, too, ideas have the potential to spread wide and far. The power of pop culture and keeping it simple have helped all recent outdoor campaigns gain attention and success,” Joshi said.

Also read: Why Generative AI will not take advertising's dinner away

A classic example of this is the Blinkit-Zomato outdoor campaign earlier this year. Blinkit’s billboard read, "Doodh mangoge, doodh denge (Ask for milk, we will deliver it)," while Zomato's billboard read, "Kheer mangoge, kheer denge (Ask for kheer, we will deliver it)."

That was just what was needed for hundreds of brands to create their own versions of the campaign to generate interactivity.

Creative and social media agencies are reviving billboards, which are perceived to be traditional, and proving the point: Don’t underestimate the power of a great simple idea.