Babies on Billboards

Back in December I told you about a billboard campaign with pregnant women, advertising a new women’s wing of a local hospital.  As expected, the ladies on the signs got more pregnant.  In the last two weeks, the new wing has opened and the billboards changed again.

I was disappointed in their final incarnations.  In fact, their transition was so ineffective that I didn’t even notice the new billboards until I noticed the change to the signs on the building itself.  (In comparison, I always noticed those pregnant bellies.)

What was the problem?  Context.  A belly billboard showed a pregnant woman, clothed in a close-fitting, single-color shirt, from shoulder to hip.  For the first round all of the women (they were in different colors on different boards) had noticeable baby bumps.  The second round had the same women, in the same position, with huge bellies.  Now they show women holding their babies, but now the shot is just head and shoulders with the baby cradled close to the mother’s face.  I can only assume they are the same women, but I have no way to know, and if I hadn’t been following their serial billboard campaign I wouldn’t make the connection between the belly billboards and the baby ones.

Good transitions work wonders; bad transitions can ruin everything.  I was enjoying following this series of billboards, but now I’m just disappointed by the conclusion.

Serial Billboards

On a typical highway between cities, a billboard may not change much.  It assumes a one-time audience, so it has to communicate all of the pertinent information at once.

On a typical highway around Houston (or any major city), a billboard can work differently.  These highways often have repeat audiences, with the same people driving past the same billboards at the same time every day.  I’ve recently noticed two billboard campaigns that are taking advantage of the same concept as a serial story or a cliffhanger episode on a television show.  I find this very intriguing.

The first set of billboards started out white with black letters.  They said things like “Smart people…” and “Busy people…” and that was it.  No follow-up, just black letters on a white billboard.  Very curious.  About two weeks later I saw one of them again.  This time it said “Smart people listen,” along with the call number for a local radio station.  My interest was piqued, so I paid attention.  I probably wouldn’t have noticed the finished billboard if it hadn’t started out so intriguingly.

The other billboard that’s working on a series has a longer commitment.  A local hospital (of which we have many) is opening a new maternity ward.  About a month ago the first billboards went up, with several different women.  Each was wearing a body-hugging top, and all you saw was her torso with a hand on her belly.  (I’m sure you can see where this is going.)  Last night I noticed one of these billboards, and the woman’s tummy has grown.  The hospital is planning to start delivering babies in the spring – I’m guessing when they’re ready to open the women on the billboards will all have big tummies.  They may even carry it through all the way and have them holding their babies!

It’s nice to see that print ads can carry a storyline just as well as a novel or a television show.  It definitely makes a commute in rush hour traffic a little more interesting.

A Strange Ad Campaign

I went on a road trip to visit family during part of my time off, and I saw a series of strange billboards in Missouri.  In a pale imitation of my friends at Interpretation by Design, I want to share these signs with you.  They had outdoors-type people (one had a couple of hikers, another had some folks with fishing poles) and the sign said in big letters “We Promise Missouri” followed, in smaller font, with “we won’t move firewood.”

Apparently Illinois needs this message, too. The image is from the listed website.

This seems like a strange message.  My first thought, when I saw one, was that it was a series of “good neighbor” type ads.  You know, don’t move firewood, pack out my trash, or any of a variety of outdoors-related etiquette.  (Although on reflection, moving firewood seems like a low-priority behavior change.)

When I saw a second one with the same wording, I got kind of curious, enough that I started wondering who I could ask about said signs.  On the third one I noticed a website in small (for a billboard) type near the bottom.  www.stopthebeetle.info.

I went to this site and discovered that several states have this message.  It is to help prevent the spread of an invasive insect pest called the Emerald Ash Borer.  Invasive species are a big issue for me, so I can appreciate this concept.  It seems that the billboards may be a little off, though.  Somehow the background information for the concept needs to be introduced – perhaps this is something that I didn’t experience (like TV or radio ads) since I don’t live in the affected area.

I doubt that most people are weird enough to look up the website just because of the billboards, though.