Spring 2015: The Golden Age of the Subway Ad

Ever stand in a packed rush hour subway car finding yourself captivated by an ad for…a┬ámattress┬ácompany?
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Thanks to artful hand-drawn illustrations, clever captions and a whimsical feel, online mattress start-up Casper manages to accomplish the unthinkable.
They’re getting jaded New Yorkers to smile on their commute.
They’re also getting us to consider replacing a rather dull, high-cost, infrequently purchased consumer product by conveying an irresistible brand persona to thousands of commuters on the F train.
From doctors’ offices to movers, the mundane ads of the past are being replaced by memorable stories with unprecedented impact.
In some cases, it’s the absence of content that catches your eye. Consider this ad for MakeSpace, an on-demand storage and packing service: “MakeSpace was here.”
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Does the minimalism make you long for the freedom and simplicity of an uncluttered apartment?
Other times it’s the bold use of color: a white onion stained dark red with the words “chop chop…yow!!” immediately gets the point across for urgent care clinic CityMD.
This season’s ads are often witty, spirited, contemporary-and a few are considered controversial, as The NY Times recently pointed out.
Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel campaign demonstrates the power of gutsy messaging, even with seen-it-all New Yorkers. The ads, featuring entire subway cars with black-and-white photos of scantily-clad plus size models, fall into the controversial category for some, such as a Brooklyn city councilman who is seeking to get the ads removed.
Meanwhile, many more New Yorkers are applauding the campaign as a celebration of the true diversity of body types, and as a compelling rebuttal to the Victoria’s Secret “angels” aesthetic.
Regardless of method-ranging from understated to brazen, the common theme among the very best of the current crop of ads is a super-charged level of creative messaging.┬áPersonality-infused branding has finally reached us straphangers. And we’re in for a ride.

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