We are surrounded by visual information. Billboards, banner ads, TV spots, logos, and more await us at every turn. With so much competition, it takes something truly unique and unexpected to win our attention. Each individual piece of advertising, if it’s being executed thoughtfully, is part of a visual campaign created to drive engagement for its respective organization. Let’s take a look at 3 visual campaigns that did just that.
UN Women: “The Autocomplete Truth”
This 2013 campaign sought to expose and challenge assumptions and beliefs about women’s roles in societies around the world. It was developed using real Google searches and their autocomplete results. These searches revealed harmful stereotypes and discrimination that were perhaps more prevalent than many viewers realized or imagined. The prompts included “women should …,” “women cannot …,” “women shouldn’t …,” and “women need to. …”
The search results alone could have been considered shocking. However, a mere press release or blog post couldn’t have had the visual impact that the resulting campaign created. The search results were superimposed over photos of women’s faces, covering their mouths in a metaphorical act of silencing them with these rampant negative thoughts and stereotypes.
UN Women’s ads achieved wide reach due to their placement on TV, in print media, and on the web, and the use of a trending hashtag, #womenshould. A video was produced to tie together the findings and impact of the campaign. According to Medium, the campaign received more than 600 media mentions, 24 million Twitter mentions, and 1.2 billion impressions as of 2018. It became Adweek’s most shared promotion in the year of its launch. The campaign was also named Social Good Campaign of 2013.
British Airways: “Look Up”
2013 must have been a great year for quality visual campaigns. In addition to the UN Women campaign above, that year also brought us a real-time interactive video billboard from British Airways.
On one such billboard, displayed in London’s Piccadilly Circus, viewers saw a young boy running across the screen and pointing to the sky. If passersby looked up the direction in which the finger pointed, they’d see it aimed at a passing plane. The flight number and origin of that very plane would be identified on the billboard.
These billboards were placed in key locations throughout London. They used antennae mounted on nearby buildings to access data from the airline’s transponders. Knowing where the plane over your head at this exact moment just came from might get you thinking about traveling there … or somewhere else that British Airways flies.
The aim of the campaign was to show how many locations British Airways served. Choosing an interactive format tapped into consumers’ natural curiosity and attraction to novelty. Surrounded by static billboards and transportation ads, viewers are naturally attracted to movement. In fact, 4 out of 5 people would happily watch a video about a product or service. However, not many are compelled to read text-based content. In this case, combining video and interactivity helped British Airways stand out.
This campaign generated plenty of buzz thanks in part to its associated hashtag, #LookUp. It went on to win the Grand Prix in the direct category at Cannes Lions in 2014.
IHOP: “Rebrand” to IHOb
This seems like an odd choice, right? It wasn’t heartfelt, and it wasn’t obviously groundbreaking. It was, quite simply, about pancakes and burgers. But the buzz it generated — from support, to disdain, to seemingly swearing off the brand — was monumental.
With this campaign, IHOP announced its name-change to IHOb as a teaser. The brand later revealed that the “b” should stand for “burgers” (not “breakfast,” as some assumed). They made this change on their logo on social media, and even changed a few store signs.
This seemingly small change got people excited enough (or angry enough) to spread the word for them. Brandwatch reported that IHOP generated nearly 950,000 conversations (948,750, to be exact) as a result of the campaign. Even better, the brand’s burger sales quadrupled, and fans began to think of their restaurant as a place to go for pancakes and burgers.
The brand later admitted the name-change was just a marketing tactic. They subsequently changed all branding back to the signature IHOP. However, the incredible impact that was generated from just a singular visual- and text-based shift in a logo is a memorable lesson in the level of impact that all visual communication has. All of these results came from flipping a “P” to a “b” for a little while. IHOP portrays one brand, but in the eyes of its consumers, IHOb — with its nearly identical logo — managed to morph the brand into something else entirely.
Now, it looks like the brand has something else up its sleeve …
Whether they’re tapping into our emotions, engaging our curiosity, or seemingly threatening the pancakes in our neighborhood eateries, visual campaigns can achieve success in many ways. They can make people laugh or cry, get people sharing or talking on social media, and win awards. What’s more, they can accomplish these goals using a variety of visual communication solutions. The choice of medium depends entirely on your goals.
Defining what success looks like is the keystone to creating any successful visual campaign. Before embarking on your next campaign, take the time to imagine what results you want to see. Then, make it your mission to work toward this goal with every decision you make along the way.