Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…

We finished judging the 2010 Obie Awards yesterday, on time and, for the most part, in agreement. For those unawares, the Obies celebrate the best outdoor advertising in North America and abroad.

Among my co-judges were old friend, John Butler (Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners) and living legend, Stan Richards (The Richards Group). Rounding out the team were Scott Boswell, John Marson, Joe Zubizaretta and Tony Calcoa of Crispin Porter & Bogusky. Definitely a good panel.

OAAA Chief Marketing Officer, Stephen Freitas and Company run a tight ship, from judging process to final gala. The awards ceremony (which, by the way, I will be hosting) takes place May 4th at the Desert Ridge Marriott in Phoenix, AZ. In addition to the parsing of awards, the exemplary MINI Cooper campaign will be inducted into the Obie Hall of Fame.

Since my wonder years on Altoids, I’ve long appreciated the out-of-home (OOH) medium and know what it can do for a brand as well as a career. ;-) As other mass media fades in its importance to advertisers, OOH continues to stay relevant, if not downright indispensable. Social media is all about establishing personal connections and, ironically, so is good outdoor. Yes, a billboard seems about as mass as mass media gets, randomly targeting every Tom, Dick and Harry driving along the highway. But look at it this way (and you really should): many drivers see the same boards every day during their commute, establishing a bond of sorts with the message. Each day the person rethinks his or her position on the message, even if subconsciously. Either way, these boards become icons on their trip. Signposts. Familiar.

The connectivity between OOH and consumer only increases, as the messaging gets closer to the street -to where a person works and plays. Guerilla marketing, street theater, wild posters (all categories in the Obies) are, if done well, nothing less than propaganda and among the strongest weapons in the marketing arsenal.

Back to the judging… Usually, there are a couple front running campaigns that dominate the field as they did in market. In years past, campaigns from Apple, Altoids and (obviously) MINI Cooper have shown well here. This time around the heir apparent was the ubiquitous and iconic campaign from Snickers. Surely, you’ve seen these oversized brown wrappers in your neck of the woods. In addition, with its colorful and controversial packaging re-design, Pepsi also had a significant presence in the show.

Did either campaign win an Obie, let alone the grand prize? Not so fast. I only said they were poised to. Frankly, my favorite campaigns came elsewhere. Besides, Best of Show voting was done by secret ballot so any number of gems could win, even a one-off, of which there were several remarkable pieces.

Enough teasing! I made a vow of secrecy to the Obies and I’m already feeling dubiously Biden-like in my chattiness! Good luck to all the entrants and I’ll see you in Arizona.

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