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How to Make THE COOLEST Advertisements. Ever.

In the spirit of winter, I’m going to share a few ways that you can use snow and ice to create outdoor advertising. Like other forms of natural media, these materials have a small impact on the environment but a big impact your audience.

Few people consider the negative environmental impact of traditional outdoor advertising. If you’ve read my other Pegable posts, you already understand the scale of the problem so please skip ahead to the Snow Stamping section. If you haven’t read my other posts and you use outdoor advertising, start with the section below. You might find yourself re-thinking your media choices.

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Traditional Outdoor Advertising: What A Waste

Each year, traditional outdoor advertising produces millions of tons of waste. Countries in the EU alone use 3 million square meters of paper per week for outdoor advertising. If that were a one-meter wide piece of paper, it would wrap around our planet 3.9 times. Keep in mind that this stat only counts paper, and it only includes countries in the EU.

Bus shelter posters are prints made of paper and vinyl. Because posters are often supersaturated with ink to produce rich colors, only a small percentage are recyclable. The average life cycle for one of these posters is only 12 days!

Billboards are printed on vinyl using aggressive solvent-based inks. Other than the small percentage of them turned into bags or other upcycled products like tarps, billboards end up in our landfills or incinerated. The average life cycle for a billboard is only 60 to 90 days.

I admit that this data is outdated in some cases and spotty in others. The outdoor advertising industry is not transparent about the impact of its activities and I’ve been unable to acquire an accurate account of the big picture.

Even if you take the numbers I found and reduce them by 50%, it’s still clear that traditional outdoor advertising is dangerously wasteful. Because sustainability is quickly becoming a mainstream value among consumers, this presents a conundrum for brands: how can they continue to engage in such wasteful advertising practices without alienating a steadily growing segment of the market? If a “green” company is using traditional outdoor advertising as part of its media mix, is it still a green company?

To be fair, there have been efforts to work with more sustainable materials. For instance, paper posters are being replaced with recyclable virgin PVC plastic films. Still, one has to wonder if this is really better for the environment since PVC is made from non-renewable fossil fuels.

Another effort involves replacing vinyl billboards with digital billboards. While this cuts back on paper waste, one digital billboard can consume as much electricity as 20 to 25 average US households because the 30,000 + LED lights inside require large air conditioning units to prevent over-heating.

A Win / Win Solution

Companies that don’t want to play into the waste-generating system have a variety of sustainable outdoor advertising options to choose from. The alternatives may not always last as long, look as colorful or loom over the highways like massive vertical beacons, but they offer additional opportunities because of their novelty and sharability. Once your content makes it to the internet, a campaign can deliver value long after its physical existence has ceased.

Let’s dive into some of the ways you can use snow and ice to advertise outdoors. While these tactics can only be employed when – and where – there is snow and ice to use, they present great opportunities to spread your message while generating minimal waste.

These techniques use rubber, silicon, latex and other materials not devoid of their own environmental impact. Still, the fact that producing a single mold or template enables you to create so many messages makes these approaches significantly more sustainable than traditional outdoor advertising options.

Snow Stamping

CURB Extreme Sports Channel

Snow stamping campaigns, like this one from CurbMedia, rely on a mold that is pressed into the snow and lifted to reveal a 3D image.

Snow stamping is almost identical to sand stamping, a technique I explained in my last blog post. Snow stamping presses an image into the snow. This is different than snow embossing, which creates a raised image that sits above the snow surrounding it.

CurbMedia, one of my favorite natural media companies, was one of the first to use snow stamping. In fact it was CurbMedia founder Anthony Gonjou who coined the term “natural media.” Images of the campaign Curb did for The Extreme Sports Channel in 2009, pictured at left, are still being circulated online today.

A snow stamping tool is cast in latex or silicone from a mold that is made by hand, printed with a 3D printer or shaped using a multi-axis CNC router. The snow stamping tool is pressed into the snow and lifted to reveal a 3D image. As evidenced by CurbMedia’s campaign, your image can be quite small and still get a lot of attention.

Mints

This snow stamping campaign from CurbMedia and JWT leveraged the natural qualities of snow to convey the “icy” freshness of Polo mints.

CurbMedia executed another snow-stamping campaign in collaboration with JWT that promoted Polo mints. It was relatively low-cost and well suited to the medium since the mint’s “icy” freshness is a major selling point.

Frost Stamping

WAX's campaign for Mucho Burrito was muy caliente!

WAX’s campaign for Mucho Burrito was muy caliente!

Creative agency WAX used a frost stamp in “Warm Up Winter,” an outdoor media campaign created to promote Mexican restaurant Mucho Burrito as “a destination for sizzling food during the cold winter months.”

The campaign’s Art Director Brad Connell explained how his team created the stamp and heated it with hot water before pressing it onto frosted surfaces. By carrying around bags of hot water, they were able to warm the stamps on the go. While it certainly involved some hard work on a cold day, the message fit well with the medium and the campaign’s impact was worth the effort.

Snow Embossing 

Snow embossing involves placing a template, generally between half an inch and one inch thick, on snow. Extra snow is filled into the image and excess snow is scraped away. When the template is removed, it reveals a raised image that creates highlights and shadows – the same effect embossing has when used on paper. Though I love snow stamping, snow embossing is much less expensive and there is something about a raised image that’s very crisp and visually engaging.

Ice & Snow Sculpture

lounge

Ice lounges like this one By Scott Rella can house anything from bars to chandeliers made of ice!

These techniques have been used for many decades and though you might be familiar with them, you probably haven’t thought about using them to promote your brand. But why not?! If you’ve ever watched someone carve ice or create a snow sculpture, you’ve probably noticed onlookers pulling out their phones to capture and share pictures online.

If the sculpture promotes your brand, you can harness the power of peer-to-peer marketing to spread your message. If you create a sculpture that invites people to interact with it in some way, you can bet that you’ll see even more social posts and sharing. After all, this is the era of the selfie.

Stoli

Scott’s castle for Stolichnaya vodka draws on the design aesthetic of The Kremlin, nodding to the brand’s roots.

Ice sculptor Scott “Ice Man” Rella has helped several brands use ice in their promotions. He’s created an ice lounge for North Face, sculpted an ice castle for Stolichnaya and built a variety of other branding and marketing pieces. I encourage you to look at his website and let your imagination go wild. These creations are a great way to get attention for your brand and they leave only puddles behind.

One of the best parts about using natural media like snow and ice is that the media becomes part of the message by reflecting values like sustainability, creativity and innovation. It also does a good job capturing attention and interest due to its relative novelty. These forms of outreach are far more remarkable and memorable than your average billboard.

Don’t believe me? In the past week, you have driven by, walked by or rode by hundreds of outdoor advertising messages. Now close your eyes and try to remember one of them.

I conduct this test with my clients all the time and you would think that since I know I’ll be playing this game, I should be able to recall quite a few ads. I never can. In seven years, not one client has been able to recall more than two outdoor advertisements and even two is rare.

Next time you’re thinking about outdoor advertising, remember this little test. Then, think about whether it’s possible that using reverse graffiti, sand or snow might make a more memorable – and less wasteful – statement [Click to Tweet!]. You might be surprised at the creative and impactful new ideas a commitment to the environment inspires.

Intrigued? Stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll explore how you can use living materials to spread your message to the masses!

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Guest Blogger Jim Bowes is widely recognized as an authority on natural media. Originally from California, he left the traditional advertising industry in 2005 and set out to reduce the impact of advertising on the environment. Jim founded GreenGraffiti and then started Natural Media Experts to help entrepreneurs set up their own natural media businesses. He now lives in Amsterdam and you can reach him by email: [email protected]
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