Outdoor ads are sometimes criticized as a form of visual pollution—obscuring scenic views, cluttering country highways or covering city streets—but some marketers are creating outdoor work that actively fights pollution, from toxic water to contaminated air.
In the Philippines, an 88-foot billboard that promotes Japanese natural cosmetics brand Shokubutsu Hana is made of vetiver grass, which has toxin-absorbing properties. Placed in Manila’s heavily polluted Pasig River, the billboard can cleanse up to 8,000 gallons of water a day. (While not a traditional outdoor ad, a Cannes gold Lion winner in the outdoor category similarly serves as a means to clean water: Produced by the charity Water Is Life, “The Drinkable Book” is a manual covering good sanitation and hygienic practices that also purifies drinking water, thanks to a paper coating that can destroy deadly bacteria.) In Peru, meanwhile, a billboard for engineering university UTEC purifies air up to five blocks away. Situated within the construction site of UTEC’s new campus, the billboard can filter 100,000 cubic meters of air per day.
Each campaign highlights a commitment to quality of life, reflecting positively on the organizations. In UTEC’s case, the university recognizes that growth and development can cause pollution but shows that it has the know-how to help mitigate the negative impact. These practical efforts go beyond raising awareness to providing solutions to real problems, addressing anxieties and improving lives immediately.