How an outdoor campaign printed on boards swept the board

Sometimes, great ideas can rattle around metaphoric bottom drawers for quite a while. It happens all the time and when it does, we try our level best to liberate such gems into the wild whenever possible.

Back when Jon and I were students, lateral approach and devising odd stuff for well trodden FMCG products were the most common weapons of choice in order to differentiate a student book.  In an era when the word ‘disruptive’ was more readily applied to wayward schoolchildren than communications, we had the idea of creating a campaign for a boarding and glazing company. The idea was to create messaging on physical pieces of board rather than just print them as conventional posters. They would run in city centre business districts amid a sea of corporate glass palaces providing rich pickings for glazing firms. They would stand out a mile – if we could do it the way we wanted to.

Fast forward to our first job and our MD – in truth a frustrated creative. He’d requested our student book and one day, he summoned us to his office as he’d spotted the boarding up campaign and thought it stood out (proof that an MD, not just a CD can get excited about a student book). It took all us all of two minutes to agree we should try and run it.

Our brilliant client was persuaded to book some Adshel special builds involving the removal of protective glass frame and then stencilling some ad’ messaging on big old pieces of plywood with contentious, provocative headlines like ‘We’ll come round and put your windows in’ or ‘Any trouble & we’ll send the lads round with hammers.’  These bold boards around Birmingham attracted loads of attention and press traction – even attracting the odd bit of graffiti (see pic’) and the obvious plan was to test our luck in awards season once it came round. In addition to Roses, Cream (RIP), New York Festivals and the like, The IPA Business to Business Advertising Awards caught our attention and we entered ‘Boards’ as a campaign. The ceremony was to be held at The Brewery in East London with Ian Hislop as compere.

As IPA do’s…do, it attracted the great and the good from ad-land given John Hegarty was Chair of the judging panel amid several other Soho luminaries. Before taking our seats, we bumped into Dino Maddelena, creative supremo of Brookes & Vernon who’d been enjoying a lot of awards success with his fantastic ‘Buy British beef’ ad’ for JCB inspired by the BSE crisis. Rather than offer his hand up – he looked at us and bellowed:  ‘What the fuck are you pair doing here? – this was gonna be my night!!?’

So this is an official apology Dino (20 years later).
Turns out we walked away with The Grand Prix, the Innovation Award and best Biz to Biz campaign that night.
Dino – you won best Business to Business Campaign of the year and One Off Best Business to Business ad’ of the year. So not too shabby all round.

All said, it’s amazing what you can do with no money when you ap’ply’ yourself.