Modern day canvases in London: 5 trends in out-of-home advertising


Brands hoping to capture the attention of increasingly sophisticated and skeptical consumers should prioritise new, creative, and surprising canvases for their advertising messages.

This is not only a pertinent challenge for brands targeting more mainstream audiences, but also those targeting affluent individuals. Whilst luxury brands have always been synonymous with exclusivity, their guarded and distant approach to communication has fallen out of fashion somewhat, with contemporary consumers drawn to more inclusive and innovative approaches to marketing.

Outdoor media has become a market place where these new canvases are emerging at a rapid rate. Traditional sites have become all too familiar, becoming a backdrop to the daily commute for many audiences in London. With this problem in mind, both established media owners and newcomers to the market, are creating new opportunities to grab the attention of contemporary consumers. 

Artistic transformation 

Historically the preserve of urban brands hoping to articulate their anti-establishment positioning, wall murals across the city have become the canvas du jour for some of the biggest and most covetable brands in the fashion and luxury industries.

Although the production is more work intensive than buying traditional ad placements on a digital screen or billboard, the impact of a prominent piece of art present in a space where advertising hasn’t historically been placed, can really help shift perceptions and align a brand with a new audience at scale.

A recent example of this was the Ralph Lauren X Palace ad on the exposed side of an old brick building in Clerkenwell for the launch of their new collaboration in November 2018.  The simplicity of the bright blue background and the two fashion powerhouse’s logos in white caused the perfect hype to mark the much-anticipated collaboration between two juxtaposing but iconic streetwear and lifestyle brands. 

Similarly, our work with Toggl in New York recently turned heads in proximity to key creative businesses (identified through Cream iQ analysis) with the painting of the murals creating almost as much of a stir as the finished product.  With precise geo-targeted digital advertising helping to build additional frequency and convert curiosity, what was on paper a relatively simple media plan delivered against all our critical objectives establishing and positioning a new brand in a key market. The campaign provided crucial performance data for future marketing activity all centered around what were fresh and exiting pieces of art in creative neighbourhoods.

In a similar vein, we have seen some luxury houses disrupting the media landscape with fly-postering. Urban fashion hotspots in areas like Shoreditch and Dalston are increasingly canvassed with brands trying to appease a lucrative set of millennial creatives. Whilst there are certainly merits of being present in avant-garde areas with interesting media placements, it is not a risk-free strategy, as the recent defacing of Alexander McQueen’s placements in Shoreditch proves. Unbeknownst to the luxury brand, the ads were repeatedly vandalised with unusual references to a character in the recent hit episode of Black Mirror called Daniel Blaq. It is as yet unclear whether this was a ploy by Netflix themselves, but in any case, it is a clear reminder that these more guerilla marketing executions are less regulated by media owners and luxury brands aren’t able to guarantee the level of brand safety that they may be accustomed to in other media efforts. 

Sculptural formats

In 2018 JC Decaux again reinforced their design and luxury credentials by partnering with Zaha Hadid Designs to create a unique advertising canvas in Kensington. Situated on one of the busiest roads leading in to and out of West London, the double-ribbon of matt stainless steel demands the attention of passers by, acting more of an art piece than a billboard.

Image result for the kensington jcdecaux

 "Both a civic gesture and a promotional medium, the intertwined, looped ribbon design expresses the dynamism of pedestrian and vehicle traffic movements that intersect at this important London junction," said Melodie Leung, Senior Associate at Zaha Hadid Design.

With this eye-catching real estate comes a hefty price tag that will certainly be off-putting for those brands more focused on immediate response and less on longer term brand building and positioning. 

Ongoing digital transformation 

Digitisation of the outdoor experience in the UK’s capital is far from a new phenomenon, however we are now seeing increased creativity in the canvases themselves. This is most notable in Exterion’s London Underground Ribbons which are already live at Piccadilly Circus, Tottenham Court Road and Kings Cross stations.

These new ribbons allow advertisers to break free from the creative restraints of consecutive LEP formats, instead making use of a continuous and native placement; offering opportunity for truly immersive experiences in full motion video.

Intelligent delivery

Building on the development of outdoor digitisation, Ocean have taken more steps to use data queues in proximity to their outdoor sites to dynamically serve creative. Vehicle detection technology at their screens in West London allows advertisers to deliver personalised creative to different audiences based on demographic information around car ownership.

Using number plate recognition cameras, Westfield Ocean Outdoor have created high impact screens in West London that can serve one of three product creatives depending on the demographic indicated by vehicles stopping in proximity.


This technology marks a huge advancement in the way we serve outdoor ads as it enables brands to quickly serve different creative and even different products to better suit the affluence of differing audiences, resulting in increased relevancy and a reduction in potentially wasted media spend. 

Transient activations 

Light shows and projections enable branded advertising to be placed on some of the world’s most iconic buildings. Whilst the activation is transient, the impact and social buzz generated around the projection often far exceeds the reach of a more conventional outdoor placement.

To mark the launch of Bucherer Fine Jewellery, we branded Marble Arch, The Tate Modern and The National Gallery, creating brand stature in a way that traditional outdoor would not. Our activity immediately associated the brand with London, and when combined with social amplification was a key driver in increased footfall to the Selfridges boutique. 



 Looking into 2019 projections have now evolved even further into holograms, creating the experience of 3D interactions with brands products. Whilst these holographic projections are still in their infancy, they will certainly offer advertisers the opportunity for real creative edge in a fast diversifying landscape. 

Advances in analysis 

Whilst most marketeers intuitively understand how effective outdoor advertising can be in driving core business metrics (and huge and sustained investment from fast growth digital brands like Google, Facebook and Amazon would support this further), lack of robust campaign measurement vs other channels has certainly made media planning prioritisation more complicated.

However, more precise delivery of outdoor advertising aligned with better tracking of proximate footfall through mobile devices, more accurate understanding of social conversation generated by high impact placements, and increased sophistication in modelling of marketing performance is very quickly improving our understanding of campaign performance and our ability to deploy media investment more effectively and accurately. 

If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this article in more detail or if you would like to review your marketing planning more broadly please do get in touch on or call us on +44 (0) 203 0114 500