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Breaking Black Friday: How Venables Bell & Partners’ #OptOutside Scooped Two Grand LIAs

Will McGinness, Partner/ECD of VB&P, and Malcolm Poynton, Global Chief Creative Officer of Cheil Worldwide, on the award-winning initiative that saw the outdoor retailer close its doors on Black Friday

Breaking Black Friday: How Venables Bell & Partners’ #OptOutside Scooped Two Grand LIAs

Venables Bell & Partners (VB&P) has scooped two Grand LIAs at this year’s London International Awards for its #OptOutside campaign for outdoor retailer REI. 

The independent San Francisco advertising agency took home the top honour in both the Integration and Non-Traditional categories. 

Tasked with making a big statement during the holiday shopping season, whilst staying true to REI’s core mission as a company, VB&P devised a campaign which saw the retailer close all 143 of its stores on Black Friday, inviting all 12,000 employees to spend the day outdoors and all of America was invited to #OptOutside.

On awarding VB&P the Integration Grand LIA, Malcolm Poynton, Jury President and Global Chief Creative Officer of Cheil Worldwide, comments: “When we came to judging we had eight Golds to choose from and it became an interesting conversation because there were seven really strong contenders. We were looking for work that had a serious impact, but also had influence in culture and the way in which it met society. It took a risk, and that sounds like an easy thing to say but in truth some campaigns take more risk and courage than others.” 

He adds: “We arrived at a Grand LIA that we think makes a great statement and would inspire and encourage many people, not just for the campaign creation itself, but the purpose and how it serves the world today. It does both things that the category sets out to explore in its current definition; a multi-platform campaign but also a campaign that really does integrate itself in society to make that impact and influence upon people. In this case, it went so far as to influencer other retailers to follow suit and make a stand in the face of Black Friday. 

As well as picking up the two Grand LIAs, the campaign garnered a huge amount of support and media attention, with over 170 organisations backing the initiative (with some even closing their doors on Black Friday too) and hundreds of parks across the US opening their gates for free.  


“When REI offered the idea of closing the stores on Black Friday during the briefing, we knew they were open and ready for an effort that was far bigger than an advertising campaign,” explains Will McGinness, Partner/ECD of VB&P.

#OptOutside became a widespread cultural movement, with 1.4 million people choosing to spend Black Friday outside with REI. The campaign earned 33 straight days of media coverage with 3,423 placements leading to 6.7 billion media impressions. 

“In our research efforts, it was clear that many people were becoming disenchanted with the Black Friday shopping frenzy,” McGinness adds. “Given #OptOutside provided an antidote to that, we knew there was great potential to spark a cultural conversation around the value of being outdoors over being in a mall during the holidays. That said, nothing could have prepared us for the amazing onslaught of press coverage.” 

Barbara Levy, Founder of London International Awards, comments: “Congratulations go out to all of the Statue Winners, and a special mention to Venables Bell & Partners for an historic double Grand LIA win. Nothing was taken for granted in the judging rooms and they jury members were very conscientious when it came to Statue discussions, so you can be assured that the Statue winners come from a crop of work that’s universally acknowledge as exceptional.”

McGinness concludes: “LIA represents the best of the best work in the world, and we’re honored that our efforts for REI have been recognized this year.”

Genre: Experiential , PR , Stunts