The Billboard Bonus

For the past 10 years, the digital realm has dominated marketing budgets, but there seems to be a slow return by some brands to more traditional platforms.

Data from a survey by a chief marketing officer organisation says spend on more traditional forms of marketing is set to increase by as much as 3% in coming months.

One local brand making the switch is short-term insurer Pineapple, which has erected a series of amusing billboards to complement its already established digital marketing presence.

And in the UK the Flora spreads brand is highlighting its plant-based range in a series of billboards that ask the public to consider that  “if it tastes so good without animal products, why did we ever use cows in the first place?”. The product’s new payoff line is: “Skip the Cow.”

The campaign is supported by a 30-second television ad shot in a documentary style and featuring a restaurant owner saying he knows the product tastes good, but he wants his plants to be chewed and passed through all four chambers of a cow’s stomach and then expressed through its udders. While explaining the anatomy of a cow, it suddenly dawns on him how odd he sounds.

Pineapple CEO Marnus van Heerden tells the FM the company’s outdoor advertising campaign has resulted in a 100% increase in vehicles insured monthly. The brand has 90 billboard sites in Joburg and Cape Town.

“We could never have imagined the traction we saw immediately after going live with our new website and billboard campaign. We expect our monthly policy sales growth to increase from 100% to 300% in the next six months as we continue to optimise our funnel. The bottom line is that outdoor advertising works, and we are eager to do more in the space.”

That endorsement will please many in the out-of-home space. The sector is often seen as advertising’s poor cousin and has a reputation in some quarters of fly-by-night operators selling illegal sites with city governments taking kickbacks.

Van Heerden says his company had great success in the digital space but realised it needed to speed up the sale of its product and services beyond early adopters.

He says: “Outdoor has always been an attractive route for us. The medium drives a lot of credibility and awareness, especially in South Africa. Billboards are a great way to drive brand repetition and recall, especially for our brand, whose products and services are intangible. Billboards are kept in place for extended periods, allowing consumers more time to read, engage and interact with the brand daily while commuting.”

Copywriters will tell you that being humorous on a billboard is a tough ask, but Pineapple appears to have cracked the code. One billboard says: “9/10 People Who Work at Pineapple Would Recommend Our Insurance. WTF Jim.”

Van Heerden says the motto of his marketing team is: “We do not have to take ourselves seriously, but we have to take what we do seriously.” He believes the campaign is the opposite of what consumers are used to seeing, or expect to see, in the insurance space, which he describes as — “boring”, “literal”, “repetitive” and sometimes a little too “aggressive”.

Location is critical to an outdoor campaign’s success, and Van Heerden says all sites for the billboards were hand-picked by the company; the placing was not outsourced to a media buyer. Also, each line was specially curated for the chosen space.

“For this campaign, we chose to follow the volcano method. When a volcano explodes, a huge impact is made in a small space. By focusing on a concentrated area, we were able to place billboards strategically so that consumers would see between two and five billboards during a single commute. This approach ensures that the advertisement dominates an area and is not just a whisper in a thunderstorm.

“The billboard that has gained the most online traction said: “The next billboard is selling Drip. We’re just selling insurance.”