Advertising at its best – with a functional or social purpose

I have just been reading about a few recent ad campaigns that are refreshingly lo-tech and yet great examples of branded utility.

These are pieces of advertising with a twist as they seek to address simple human needs (not just promote a service or product) without relying on internet connectivity or digital media.

First, Nivea made the news as its solar-powered phone-charger print ads hit Brazilian beaches:

Then, IBM took outdoor to a new level with its ultra functional ads in support of its ‘People for smarter cities’ campaign.

Lastly, one of the submissions in the Innovation Lions category at Cannes this year caught my attention: Engen and its branded safety calendars that double up as fire blankets to help fight fires in South African shantytowns.

In an era where digital communications are all the rage, these campaigns are turning traditional advertising on its head by emulating utility apps without the technology.

In the same vein, relying on sheer engineering smarts (and no internet), one of my all-time favourite billboards has to be the one developed by a Peruvian University that produces drinkable water out of thin air.

Not only are these ads designed to help first and foremost (sell a product or service second), but also they show ad agencies under a new unexpected (and wonderful) light.
We want more of these please.


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