Innovation That Matters

Invisible ad

An ad you can only see outdoors

Advertising & Marketing

L.L. Bean has launched a new campaign with an ad that is invisible until it is taken outside.

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As more and more retail sales move online, older brands have often struggled to adapt. The century-old clothing retailer L.L. Bean has not been immune to these changes – the company has responded to flat sales with recent announcements that it is trimming its workforce and scaling back the opening of new stores. L. L. Bean has also decided to return to its roots – the outdoors, with an ad campaign designed to encourage a wider range of buyers.

Portland, Maine-based Via Agency was commissioned to design a quirky new campaign around a ‘manifesto’ reiterating the company’s commitment to the outdoors. As part of this campaign, Via designed an ad using photochromic ink which, when viewed indoors, appears to be mostly blank space, with just the words “L.L. Bean,” “Be an outsider,” “Bring this outside.” The ad made its debut recently in the New York Times. Readers following the ads’ suggestion will find that the missing text quickly appears, urging readers to “Just step outside your front door, and you’ve arrived. You can forget your age, your worries, even your bathing suit. Just don’t forget to bring your friends.” Back inside, the text disappears again.

We have seen many ways in which innovation in advertising is connected to online technology, such as the automatic placement of ads on websites. But this campaign demonstrates that more traditional formats can still be effective. In the past we have seen a Japanese agency print news on bottles of water, matchboxes featuring designs of lungs used to highlight the dangers of smoking and, this April, the Indian government released a coffee-scented stamp to encourage young people to write to their parents. In what other ways can traditional media be used to produce innovative ads?




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