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Behind Dublin’s Speaking Tesco Poster


Aubrey O’Connell, creative lead at BBH Dublin on how he stared out of the agency’s window to speak to Dublin’s crowd via a 48 sheet Tesco poster, writes LBB’s Zoe Antonov

Behind Dublin’s Speaking Tesco Poster

This month, Tesco launched a new store in Dublin - Tesco Charlemont Square! However, it is a little tucked away, so BBH Dublin collaborated with the supermarket chain to help passersby locate the store.

In a time when everybody is raging about AI, the agency took the very traditional route, but with a little bit of a twist: a traditional 48 sheet billboard poster, a projector shining onto it, and a copywriter on hand, manning the keyboard while staring at the crowd from the BBH office window nearby. 

Soon enough, bespoke messages started popping up on the billboard, interacting with people passing by. Understandably, many were taken aback by the billboard complementing their jeans, or asking them where they got their bread from, and ultimately, directing them to the new Tesco around the corner. 

The human touch was unmistakable - interacting with the public on the go at that pace was not only an incredible exercise in brilliant copywriting, but proof that Tesco and BBH know their crowd and its sense of humour. 

LBB’s Zoe Antonov spoke to Aubrey O’Connell, creative lead at BBH Dublin about why BBH decided to take the human route, how he manned the keys from the office and the funniest reactions to the poster.

LBB> What was the initial brief for this campaign, and how did you come up with this idea? 

Aubrey> The new Tesco Charlemont Square store was hard to find, as it’s hidden away in a new development. Staring out our office window at a 48 sheet next to us (as we do a lot) it seemed like a no brainer. 

LBB> People are sinking their teeth into a lot of AI usage right now, but this is as traditional and human as it gets - why did you take that approach?

Aubrey> Tesco might be a big brand, but they’re very much a brand that aims to talk to people on a human level. A supermarket has something for everyone, for every occasion, so making sure that humanity comes across was really important for us. With AI becoming more prevalent, creating bespoke, real voices will actually be the more valuable thing.

LBB> How did you pick the person who was writing the copy in real time and where were they located? How were they able to see the passer byers?

Aubrey> We’re still a small agency, so it meant everyone was doing all sorts of jobs they wouldn’t normally do! I was the one manning the keys from up in our second floor office. We had spotters down the street who would radio up with a rough description to buy him some time, and producers chasing people down the street to sign releases. It admittedly wasn’t the most well oiled of machines, but once we got going it really worked.

LBB> How long was the poster there and did you have the copywriter on site every day?

Aubrey> We managed to get the poster for a few days, but only one of those was ‘live’ with a writer. The other days we cycled more generic headlines pointing people toward the new Tesco. We also used the site to allow Tesco to acknowledge other local businesses in the area. It’s nice to be a nice neighbour! 

LBB> Is there a way to use new tech to help make this a possibility for other billboards?

Aubrey> In a way, this wasn’t about using the newest of tech. We just took two things that were already out there, and have been for a long time, and introduced them to each other. The right media for the right space will always be more important than the latest gadget. 

LBB> What were people's reactions generally? Did a lot of them find Tesco in the end?

Aubrey> People loved it! It goes to show the importance of tailored work. How often do you get people taking pictures of a 48 sheet? Obviously we can’t always be this targeted, but we’d love to aim to be! And it definitely went a long way in helping people find the store.

LBB> Why was OOH the best approach for a campaign of this sort? 

Aubrey> It’s very immediate. It’s there on the street, with the people, with the new Tesco. People were able to walk right over to the store after seeing it.

LBB> Writing on the spot like that is a brilliant exercise in copy. How did it go when it was happening and were there any challenges, or was it more of a ride the wave moment?

Aubrey> Yeah it’s definitely a good exercise in not being too precious. There’s lots to be said for craft, but it was nice to shake off a little of the process for a bit. We had a great client with us who was very on the ball with the thumbs up or thumbs down. We had a pretty chaotic WhatsApp group call between spotters and producers and camera people and the writer.

LBB> What did you find most challenging when it came to speaking live to the people passing by the poster? Did you enjoy it and would you do something like that again?

Aubrey> There’s only so much you can tell about people from a glance, and of course we didn’t want to play off anything that might make people feel self conscious or be mean-spirited. So our eyes definitely lit up when someone was offering something up like drinking a beer or skating or walking a cat or whatever. But thankfully, Dublin’s known for its friendliness so as a whole people were great spirited about it! I would do it again. Are you asking? 

LBB> Tell me more about the WhatsApp call you had during that day - what was the plan and how did you all work together?

Aubrey> We thought about walkie talkies at first, mostly because we wanted to shout “over!”, but settled on a group call. By having people off down the street, it meant I got a little more time to come up with lines and get approval from client. It also meant we could get running after the right people to get release forms signed. 

LBB> How did you include other local businesses in the poster's rotating messages and how did you pick which ones to include?

Aubrey> The area is rich with lots of great local businesses, so we felt it was only right to call them out. Takeaways, pubs, shops. A special shoutout to O’Connells which also happens to be our watering hole.

LBB> What was the most fun moment during the project? 

Aubrey> We got a lovely reaction from a couple, but when it came to signing the release it became clear that they might not be the most official of couples… So we couldn’t feature them. But it was great fun overall. Once we got going we were humming and it was amazing being able to interact with the public on the fly.  

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LBB Editorial, Wed, 29 Mar 2023 15:36:08 GMT