Outdoor Ad Company Gets CMOs’ Attention by Putting Their Faces on Mysterious Billboards

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Here’s an odd little case study from outdoor ad company JCDecaux and BBDO Belgium.

Frustrated that client marketing directors weren’t showing up to its business presentations, JCDecaux got personal with them—by putting their photos up on single billboards, without their permission, printing only their name and a contact address at JCDecaux.

Naturally, the CMOs eventually got wind of the ads, and many of them called JCDecaux to ask just what the hell was going on. See how the rest played out in the video below:

As you can see in the video, at least one of the CMOs seemed a bit irritated by the scheme. We asked BBDO if any others were upset by it.

“Upset is a big word,” says digital strategic planner Jan Van Brakel. “A small minority was maybe a bit less pleased at first, but once we did the follow-up and explained the campaign, no one was upset, and they could all appreciate the campaign. The biggest proof is that JCDecaux was able to convince all of them to plan a meeting for their sales presentation.”

And were there no legal issues with using their likenesses on an ad without permission?

“Strictly speaking, what we did might have been illegal, or at least we could theoretically be accused of not respecting the [copyright],” Van Brakel admits. “But as it was only one billboard, for a very short time—depending on how long it took before we got a reaction—and the follow-up we did, we didn’t feel uncomfortable on the legal aspect at any point.”

He adds, however: “I do believe that this kind of campaign might be harder or riskier to execute in the U.S. than in Belgium.”

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On May 13, 2015

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