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Long Live Out of Home Advertising!

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Creative Tips From the First Poster Designers

By Dee Prier, OOH Media Freelancer

My family and I recently visited Paris. We had a few milestones to celebrate and decided a trip to Paris would be memorable for everyone. My daughter studies the language, and my son had never been to Europe.  My husband and I had been to Paris before and enjoyed it so much that we wanted to bring the kids.  We rationalized the expense and said this was an educational trip, and our kids would experience another culture firsthand.  Plus, I was turning 50 and wanted to do so in style. There, I said it for everyone to know. Sigh. 


A couple of mornings we couldn’t get the teens out of bed early enough to sight-see (shocker).  So the quinquagenarians of the lot, set out on foot to explore.  Always lovers of French Posters, we were on a hunt to find vintage cycling posters- hubby is an avid cyclist. We walked all over, crossing the Seine and back again, going to every vintage poster store Google could map. We bought two posters; an alcoholic beverage (Fap’ Anis) and cycling (Alycon) both have blue as primary color and that was what we were looking for. Upon return we learned neither is rare. As I write this, that probably means we overpaid. C’est la vie.  We didn’t know what we were doing or buying or not buying.  We didn’t know what we didn’t know. We knew what we liked.  When we returned home, we still had the bug and educated ourselves on the subject.  This is where the reader would think “you should have done this BEFORE going”.  I agree, but now we have reason to go back! See what I did there?

What I found while flipping through ‘larger than life’ vintage posters in France and back in our homeland, is something that I learned as an out of home media buyer 20 something years ago. The best image is bold, visually appealing, without a lot of type i.e., seven words or less. (I know you’ve heard that before!) These are all elements anyone related to out of home creative has ever heard, or ever will hear regarding creative.  Why is that?  Because the idea of grabbing attention, keeping it visually attractive, and getting to the point quickly was figured out as early as 1890 when the first posters were created and displayed in France!  As buyers, we’ve all purchased plenty of awesome signage and had horrendous cluttered creative displayed. Why is that? A number of reasons – one is ego, we are buyers and majority of us not schooled artists and therefore what do we know? This is an entirely different article though,  lets go back to my point of early French posters getting it right the first time.

My family’s favorite French Poster artist isn’t even French!  Leonetto Cappiello hailed from Tuscany and arrived in Paris when he was 21.  After dappling in sketches, caricatures, sculptures and other medium, Leonetto found his niche with posters and then created advertising posters for another 40 years.  Talk about steady work.

It pays to point out here, the advertising poster of the 1890s is equivalent to today’s street media, regardless of the continent.  Our beloved roadside came later.  The fact that early poster images were kept short, sweet and simple is remarkable and before its time. 

Here are examples:

Paris, 1900. A Wall Full of Posters.  Today’s Dedicated Wildposting Location

Paris 1936

Paris 1936




One of my favorite posters Bitter Campari.
The simplicity by Cappiello.






Only later, the conscious effort was made to add phone numbers, hours of operation, days of operation, directions, contact names, QR codes, URLs,  various fonts, etc. and disaster, sometimes all on the same piece!



photo of mcdonalds' bus shelter


More often than not, I’d like to think today’s out of home creative is crafted with the same guidelines the early posters of France displayed, such as this McDonalds’ shelter.  




Vive la publicité extérieure.  Translation: Long live out of home advertising!




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