My favourite advertising medium is the Poster.

Once nicely described as "a visual shout", the glory of the poster lies in its being the purest, simplest expression of an advertising idea.

Or... it used to be.

Increasingly, it actually isn't.

The subject's been on my mind because we're doing a couple of posters for one of our clients at the moment. So, just to get my head in the zone, I went to look at some recent award-winning outdoor ads. 

And although I've obviously been aware of the phenomenon for some time, I was really struck by how many award-winning posters nowadays are 'more than just posters'.

In fact, of the 22 pieces that won either a Grand Prix or a Gold in the Outdoor category at Cannes last year, no fewer than 9 consisted of 'more than just ink on paper'.

Yes, partly that's because the Outdoor category also includes experiential ideas, which last year included the Carlsberg 'Cinema of Bikers'. But still. Nine out of 22 winners - that's 41%.

I jumped back a few years, to 2008, and guess what - only 20% of the Grand Prix or Gold winners were 'more than just a poster.'

Not a rigorous scientific survey, but nevertheless a number that confirmed my suspicions - if you want to win an award in the Outdoor category nowadays, you'd be wise to think beyond mere ink on paper.  

In a way, it's probably unfair to compare a traditional poster (powerful and graphically-reductive image, small logo in corner) with a 'modern' poster (vending machine that dispenses product if you tweet it, or blow it a kiss).

But that's exactly what juries are doing.

And you know what? I don't blame them.

Stuff that's never been done before is simply more exciting.

I mean, the billboard that was put up last month in Peru, which condenses air into drinkable water for the local people (above), is an absolutely frickin' unbelievable idea.

If you compare that to the type of poster that was winning awards in the 1970s - legend has it that a supermarket won a gold at D&AD for their instant pasta range, headline "Pasta fasta" - there is just no comparison.

The new style is usually more impactful, more involving, and far more likely to get PR... and for all those reasons, far more likely to be effective as well as award-winning.

Yes, sometimes the client is not going to have the money (and maybe the time) to buy a special-build or interactive poster, and you're going to end up with ink-on-paper.

But it's not the place to start.

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