Toyota’s climbing wall and the evolution of the billboard

When is an advertising billboard not an advertising billboard? When it’s a fully-working climbing wall…

Toyota, and Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles, recently placed a giant billboard in Times Square in New York to advertise its new RAV4 Hybrid car. So far, so normal, you might think. But what made this billboard special was that it was also a climbing wall, reaching to a height of over 100 feet.

The billboard was up in the city for just over three weeks from late March to mid-April. It was climbed 116 times during that period – mostly by climbing professionals, but Toyota also invited a climbing novice, Christina Fate, to take it on. Her story with the wall is shown in the short documentary below – which, alongside Fate’s heartwarming tale, also features some pretty amazing shots of the billboard, showing just how tall it really was (if you just want to see that bit, cut to about two minutes in).

Toyota Hybrid climbing wall ad in Times Square
Toyota Hybrid climbing wall ad in Times Square
Toyota Hybrid climbing wall ad in Times Square

Toyota is not alone in experimenting with the possibilities of the billboard of late. In our CR Annual this year, we featured the Xbox Survival Billboard to promote the Rise of Tomb Raider game, which challenged eight contestants to stand on plinths attached to the poster site, enduring artificial weather conditions including wind and snow. A film of highlights from that project is shown below.

We also recognised DePaul’s popular poster, titled There’s Another Side to the Story, which told two different sides of homelessness, depending on where you stood. This is also below:

DePaul poster
Poster for homeless charity Depaul UK by Publicis London

These projects follow a series of clever interactive posters including this ad from Apotek, installed on a subway station in Sweden, which saw the model’s hair being blown by the incoming train, and the much-lauded BA ad, which saw a child stand up and point when a British Airways plane flew overhead.

It is no coincidence that ‘event’ billboards such as these have arisen in the digital age. Installed in only one or two locations, they will be seen by only a few people in passing, but if they gain attention (or if a well-shot documentary helps them gain attention) and are shared online, they can reach thousands, possibly millions of people. They make a fairly stuffy medium seem exciting again.

But while it’s great to see clever ad ideas such as these come to fruition, I still can’t help mourning the loss of the simple, beautifully designed or written poster ad of old. Surely there’s room in our brave new world of advertising to have both these event billboards and some brilliantly crafted or clever posters too? Isn’t there? Hats off to Saatchi & Saatchi LA for pulling this one off though.

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