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– Functional Advertising –

To engage consumers, brands need to be innovative, yes, entertaining, yes, create stand out, yes, but what if brands could also add real value to our cities and everyday lives by simply turning the medium in which they promote their advertising messages into something functional for consumers?

This year at Cannes Lions, a number of brands were rewarded for doing precisely this. And the good news is that by going beyond the simple laws of outdoor advertising, they not only gave added value to consumers, but they also strengthened their positioning by delivering their messages in a truly compelling way.

Here are a few examples of what we call ‘Functional Advertising’:


With the aim to increase applications for the coming year, the University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) in Peru, created a communications campaign that, rather than telling people that engineering can change the world, proved this very point in a very tangible way.

Lima, the second largest desert capital in the world, has been facing water insecurity issues for a while. Thus, the UTEC decided to put their engineering expertise into practice and turned their advertising space into the first-ever billboard to capture air humidity and turn it into potable drinking water.

The results were outstanding, both for the local community and for the UTEC, as in three months, the billboard produced over 9,000 litres of drinking water – providing water to hundreds of families and increasing the number of applications to the university by 38%.


To drive people to its online social platform,, IBM wanted to spread the message that ideas don’t need to be big in order to be smart and make a difference. IBM believes that smarter thinking will lead to smarter cities and that with a little bit of thinking, almost anything in a city can be improved.

IBM applied this logic to their own advertising campaign and realised that their OOH could also bring utility to citizens. They developed three billboards each with a different shape and purpose: a bench-billboard for when you need to take a rest, a shelter-billboard for rainy days, and finally a ramp-billboard for wheelchairs or luggage.

Through this campaign, IBM positions itself as an organisation which is much more than a computer and IT service company, but rather an innovative and forward thinking brand for smart thinkers and doers around the world.


Beer brand, Beck’s, has had a long association with music and art. In order to entrench this connection even further, last month Beck’s released the first ever bottle to play music: The Beck’s Edison Bottle.

In partnership with New Zealand rock band, Ghost Wave, Beck’s inscribed the band’s latest single into the surface of a Beck’s bottle, which could then be played on a specially-built device based on Thomas Edison’s original cylindrical phonograph.

By turning their bottle into an innovative medium for recorded music, Beck’s gave a new purpose to its product while also positioning itself as a pioneering brand amongst music lovers. We wonder how long it will be before we see DJ’s playing music on Beck’s bottles at sponsored parties!


Sao Paulo has one of the most unusual parks we have ever heard of. Every Sunday, the President Costa e Silva Highway is closed to traffic, transforming into a 7-mile long urban park where people can exercise, stroll and get together. As good as the initiative is, the unusual park has a problem: there is not a single tree for people to use to hide from the sun, which means that during the hottest days, it can get considerably uncomfortable.

To solve this problem Sprite Brazil came up with an extraordinary idea: a personal mobile tree shadow! The brand placed lemon trees in mobile vases in the shape of Sprite cans along the route, so that people could walk with their own personal shadow and refresh themselves while drinking a can of Sprite.

With a very small budget, this activation reached thousands of people who interacted, photographed and posted about the experience online. On top of bringing utility to consumers, the activation fits perfectly with the brand’s proposition “Refresh your ideas”.