IV. Advertising agency creates an ad. (Group work).

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IV. Advertising agency creates an ad. (Group work).

Divide into groups of four to form your own advertising agency. Think of a good name for your agency. Use your knowledge of advertising techniques to create an ad. Invent a product such as an automobile, food item, shampoo, etc. (e.g. Muscle Gel – it grows muscle where you apply it!). Create a new brand name for this product. Decide your target audience. Now make a magazine ad for the product, complete with people, settings, situations, words and ideas meant to appeal to consumers. Develop a slogan that carries appropriate emotional messages to consumers. Do not forget to use advertising techniques. To make your ad realistic, identify what magazines the ad will run in. You can create an “anti-ad” which depicts realistic consequences of smoking or drinking.

After the presentation the whole class develops a rating scale and evaluates the effectiveness of the ads their group-mates have made. Discuss each ad regarding what works well and what could be changed to improve the ad.



a Pre-Reading Discussion

1. What is the purpose of billboards?

2. Where can you usually see billboards?

3. What is the most unusual place to put billboard in?

4. What negative effects can billboards cause?



The history of billboards began in 1795 when lithography was invented, making real posters possible. Early billboards were basically large posters on the sides of buildings. As roads and highways multiplied, the billboard business florished. Billboards largely replaced advertisements painted directly onto the sides of buildings or designed into roofs.

A billboard or hoarding is a large outdoor signboard found in places with high traffic such as cities, roads, motorways and highways. Traditional billboards are usually large wooden signs with the display painted or printed on a vinyl sheet and glued onto the board. Billboards show large advertisements, typically large, witty slogans splashed with distinctive color pictures, aimed at passing pedestrians and drivers.

Some modern billboards use a technique called tri-faced (also known as rotating or multi-message billboards). These billboards show three separate adverts in rotation using a mechanical system. They are made up of a series of triangular prisms arranged so that they can be rotated to present three separate flat display surfaces (pic. 2.8). As the panels rotate and pause three unique signs can be displayed in the same space. These signs are thought to be more effective as the motion draws attention to the messages displayed.

Pic. 2.8. Times Square electronic billboards
New billboards are entirely digitized and use projection, allowing animations and completely rotating advertisements. Even holographic billboards are in use in some places. Interaction is a new theme in electronic billboards, with Britain at the forefront. At night the huge advertising billboards are lit up – advertising English brands like McDonalds, Samsung, Fosters and Coca-Cola in Piccadilly Circus (pic. 2.9). The Coca-Cola billboard responds to the weather and responds with an animated wave when passersby wave at it. London movie theatres are experimenting with billboards which contain an embedded computer chip which can interact with the web browser found in many cell phones to provide more information on the subject of the advertisement. In the spring of 2004 in Times Square in New York City, a Yahoo Autos displayed an electronic billboard which allowed one to call a phone number with a cell phone and play a two-person racing game where the cars appeared on the billboard.

Pic. 2.9. Piccadilly Circus
Billboard advertisements are designed to catch a person's attention and create a memorable impression very quickly, leaving the reader thinking about the advertisement after they have driven past it. They have to be readable in a very short time because they are usually read while being passed at high speeds. There are usually only a few words, in large font, and a humorous or arresting image in brilliant color. Some billboard designs spill outside the actual space given to them by the billboard, with parts of figures hanging off the billboard edges.

Alongside highways are some of the most noticeable and prominent places billboards are situated, since passing drivers typically have little to occupy their attention so the impact of the billboard is greater. Billboards are often drivers' primary way of finding out where food and fuel are available when driving on unfamiliar highways. Somewhere between 5,000 and 15,000 billboards are erected each year on United States highways.

An interesting billboard campaign, unique to highways, was suggested by Burma-Shave which introduced a roadside sequence of signs telling a joke or rhyme. Advertisements of canned shaving cream were placed along highways (pic. 2.10). Each advertisement had 4- or 5-part messages stretched across multiple signs, keeping the reader hooked by the promise of a punchline at the end, e.g. Be a noble – Not a knave – Caesar uses – Burma Shave; Shaving brush, – Was like old Rover. – When he died, – He died all over. – Burma Shave; Don't lose – your head – to gain a minute – you need your head – your brains are in it – Burma-Shave.

Pic. 2.10. Burma-Shave board
These sort of multi-sign advertisements are no longer common. One recent example, advertising for the NCAA, depicts a basketball player aiming a shot on one billboard; on the next one, 82 meters away, is the basket.

Many cities have high densities of billboards, especially in places where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic. Because of the lack of space in cities, these billboards are painted or hung on the sides of buildings. Billboards on the sides of buildings create different stylistic opportunities, with artwork that incorporates features of the building into the design e.g. using windows as eyes.

Many environmental groups have complained that billboards on highways cause too much clearing of trees and intrude on the surrounding landscape, with billboards' bright colors, lights and large fonts making it hard to focus on anything else. Other groups believe that billboards spoil the city’s architecture. By 2000 rooftops in Athens had grown so thick with billboards that it was getting very difficult to see its fabled architecture. In preparation for the 2004 Summer Olympics, the city demolished the majority of rooftop billboards to beautify the city for the tourists, overcoming resistance from advertisers and building owners.

Billboards have long been accused of being distracting to drivers and causing accidents. Signs with bright colors and eye-grabbing pictures, electronic and animated signs may cause drivers to look away from the road during a crucial moment. Studies have also shown that billboards at junctions and on long stretches of highway are especially dangerous for road safety.

Pic. 2.11. Wall Drug board
Most highway signs exist to advertise local restaurants and shops in the miles to come, and are crucial to drawing business in small towns that no one would stop at otherwise. One example is Wall Drug, which in 1931 put up billboards advertising “free ice water” and the town of Wall, South Dakota (pic. 2.11). Those billboards were bringing in 20,000 customers per day. Some signs advertising the establishment could be seen for hundreds of miles throughout South Dakota and the neighboring states, with slogans such as “only 827 miles (1 331 km) to Wall Drug, with FREE ice water.”

Billboards are also used to advertise national or global brands, particularly in densely populated urban areas. The top three companies advertising on billboards in 2003 in America were McDonald's, Anheuser-Busch and Miller. A large number of wireless phone companies, movie companies, cars manufacturers and banks are high on the list as well.

Billboards are also a major place of cigarette advertising. This is particularly true in countries where tobacco advertisements are not allowed in other media. For example in the U.S. tobacco advertising was banned on radio and television in 1971, leaving billboards and magazines as some of the last places tobacco could be advertised.

There exist different ways of fighting against billboards. One of them is called billboard liberation. Culture jammers, who oppose the commercialism or the corporation that sponsors the billboard, modify billboards in ways that completely change the meaning of the sign, often in a humorous way. In 1999 in one American town all cigarette billboards were replaced with anti-smoking messages. In a parody of the Marlboro Man, some billboards depicted cowboys riding on ranches with slogans like “Bob, I miss my lung.”

Not all billboards are used for advertising products and services – non-profit organisations and government agencies use them to communicate with the public. In 1999 an anonymous person created the God Speaks billboard campaign in Florida “to get people thinking about God”, with witty statements signed by God. “Don't make me come down there”, “We need to talk” and “Keep using my name in vain, I'll make rush hour longer” were parts of the campaign, which continues on billboards across the country to this day.


a Post-Reading Tasks

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