‘Yikes! That truck hit an insurance billboard!’
Or at least that's what it's meant to look like. In reality it's a stunt.
June 23, 2016
You know you’ve created an effective ad when it causes so much buzz law enforcement is forced to get involved.
That’s what happened with a billboard ad for Thor Insurance and Registries, a company based in the small town of Toefield, Alberta, Canada.
At first glance, the ad was a run-of-the-mill billboard. It used ample white space and included the line “You never know when you’ll need us,” with the company’s logo placed on the bottom of the board.
The eye-catching twist, however, was a pickup truck that appeared to have smashed into the base of the billboard structure.
The truck was staged to make it look like a real accident, a play on the “You never know when you’ll need us” line. But the fake accident apparently looked a little too real.
People almost immediately began stopping to see what happened, posting photos of the “crash” (which seemed pretty ironic, given the billboard content) on social media.
Many also called the local police to report the crash, with one person even claiming they saw the accident happen.
Five days after the ad was placed, the local authorities asked Thor to remove the smashed truck, apparently tired of fielding calls from a concerned public. Five days was far less than Thor and its agency, Red, were hoping for, but clearly the ad had done its job.
What was promoted
Thor Insurance and Registries, a small insurance company in the town of Toefield (population 2,182), about an hour outside of Edmonton.
Why this stunt
The creative team at Red came up with a fairly straightforward tagline–“You never know when you’ll need us”–but wanted another over-the-top element to make the message stand out.
“That’s when the creative team returned with the idea of demonstrating the message right there and then at the bottom of the billboard itself,” says Craig Redmond, creative director at Red.
The ad went up earlier this month and the billboard portion remains. Redmond says a replacement piece of creative will be staged shortly, with hopes it will be as impactful as the staged truck crash.
How it worked
One of the challenges the agency faced was the billboard structure itself. The structure is double-sided, and the media seller was concerned the stunt would take attention away from the ad on the other side for another advertiser.
That concern was addressed fairly easily, however. Chris Phillips, the agency’s media buyer, negotiated to get both sides of the billboard, which both resolved the issue and secured twice the exposure for the client.
As for the truck, the only extra cost incurred was towing it to and from the billboard.
Why it worked
The ad is a good example of additional elements can take a standard billboard campaign to another level. It was a creative, low-cost way to make a simple ad message stand out.
How it was received
The ad immediately received attention on social media, with people posting about what they thought was a real crash.
Since then the campaign has received international coverage, including ad blogs in Australia and Europe.
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