Variable content campaign outsmarts the city
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By James Matthews-Paul
26 January 2012
The slogan, background colour and bottom area content were different across most of the posters in this smart campaign
Having lived in Paris for four years, I can confirm readily that parking in the city is nothing short of a nightmare. With a high population density, narrow streets and an attitude to parking that resembles bumper cars more than it does any kind of Highway Code, it's no surprise that most vehicles sport at least seven dents or scratches.
I was particularly entertained, therefore, to learn of CLM BBDO's latest campaign for car brand smart, which relied on variable data printing from HP to deliver localised adverts across JCDecaux sites around the French capital. A total of 8,279 featured across 26 cities, with a total of 423 different taglines, in ten different colours, all under the catchphrase 'Déjouez la ville' – outsmart the city.
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Many of the taglines rely on jeux de mots (plays on words) which incorporate the name of the area: 'it takes a malin (clever person) to find a space on rue Manin', for example, or 'this evening's show at the Olympia has been cancelled; the performer couldn't park'. Some even sport a little risqué humour ('it's like there's a curse for those trying to park at avenue Président Kennedy'), while others go with the frustration that drivers feel universally: 'the last time a space freed up here was five years ago'.
The humour aside, what's particularly natty about this campaign is the localised element. I have always been surprised that some of the bigger agencies haven't cottoned on to VDP yet. Localised messaging is much more likely to catch the attention of passersby, and it's well known in marketing that using different colours, images and text content improves the success of any campaign.
VDP isn't that difficult to conceptualise; I'd argue that it means an agency can make use of more of the slogans and ideas that come from a given brainstorm. And at the technical end, it's not complex: provided that the data have been well organised into a CSV file, they can be run through a VDP-enabled workflow much like any other file.
VDP isn't new, but I think it's about to have its heyday. Look at all the intelligent advertising work now being delivered via digital signage. The death of the poster is a long way off but with analogue, printed sites dwindling, it's vital to maximise their use – and variable content does exactly that. Printers are in a prime position to explain this process to their customers and start to fire their imaginations – and charge more for high-value margin work as a result.
My favourite? The one from rue St Denis (pictured), famous in days gone by for its prostitutes. "Drive up, chéri," it coos. "There isn't any room on rue St Denis – but there is at mine …"
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