Sometimes a literal visualization of a message is the most effective one. These billboards by creative agency Extra Credit Projects in Grand Rapid, Michigan, promote the services of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, an 80-bed rehab center in Grand Rapids. On the all-text billboard ads, the ailment to be treated is clear; nothing more need be said or shown to improve understanding.
As an aside, the name of the hospital itself has a fascinating origin. In 1891, a group of women in Grand Rapids sought to provide medical care for people with limited financial means by asking everyone named Mary, as well as those who knew anyone named Mary, to donate money to secure a free bed in one of the local hospitals. The so-called Mary Free Bed Guild went on to raise funds for convalescent and orthopedic centers for disabled children. In 1966, the program, expanded to care for spinal injury and stroke adult patients, was renamed Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.
Over the past 30 years, we have seen many professions in the graphic arts replaced by technology. Sign painting is one. Sign painting was a trade that existed in every community to adorn storefronts, banners, billboards, street signs, and buildings. The really good signs were one-of-a-kind works of art, produced by a steady hand, discerning eye, and aesthetic sensibility. Hand-painted signs revealed the pride and skill of the craftsmen. Their execution took human judgment and an active collaboration of eye, mind and hand. On a subliminal level, viewers could feel the effort of the maker. Now signs are mostly computer-designed, die-cut vinyl lettering. Undoubtedly, this is faster, cheaper and more uniform in quality, but like so much of our urban landscape, it lacks the warmth, soul and touch of human hands. “Sign Painters” is a documentary film (and also a book) by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon that celebrates the vanishing art of sign painting. The film is currently being shown in select locations in the U.S. and other parts of the globe. If it comes to your area, do see it.
IBM’s “Smarter Planet” communication platform, developed with its long-time agency, Ogilvy & Mather, added a low-tech, but highly appreciated approach to its outdoor advertising campaign. IBM looked beyond its digital technology business and considered what would enhance the quality of life in a community. It didn’t change its marketing message, but it did alter its outdoor advertising strategy. Incorporating a simple curve in the physical shape of its billboards transformed them into street benches, rain shelters and ramps — which all goes to prove that small changes can provide smart solutions for cities.
Imagine that you are a regular Italian commuter on Line 2 of the Milan Metro subway. The train pulls up to Moscova station and you get off as usual. But wait! This isn’t right! You must have dozed off. This doesn’t look like Moscova station; it doesn’t even look like Italy. Like Captain Kirk in “Star Trek,” you’ve leaped time and space and have been beamed to Shibuya station in Tokyo.
The winter of 2009-2010 proved disastrous for registered beehives in London. About a third of the registered bee colonies collapsed, poising an enormous threat to food growth in the United Kingdom. According to U.N. statistics, the decline of the honey bee population in Europe is now between 10 and 30 percent; in the United States, it is at 30 percent, and in the Middle East, up to 85 percent of the bee population has disappeared. This is worrisome. Of the 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees.
London recently teamed with LIDA Agency and M&C Saatchi to launch a Capital Bee Campaign to raise awareness of how human behavior is endangering local bees. The campaign includes a series of billboards and YouTube videos to change public beehavior.