IBM Rethinks Outdoor Ads with a New Practical Value

IBM turns street ads into city furniture to promote the idea behind its “Smarter Cities” program, focused on comfortable urban living.

The “People for Smarter Cities” outdoor ad project by Ogivly Paris highlighted the idea that urban areas should be designed with the citizens in mind. While most of brands focus on the inspirational and intellectual power of their social promotions, IBM explored the theme of practically, “physically” useful advertising. The tech giant slightly bended the metal sheets of its outdoor ads to make them look like—and function as—a bench, a shelter and a ramp.

Two of the colorful ads worked as a shelter and a bench hanging on the walls, while the third one spread down to the public staircase forming a nice slope. City dwellers could sit on the curved surface of the metal IBM sheets, hide under them when it was raining or even roll their suitcases or bikes over them. The ads were painted to mimic the correspondent piece of urban furniture—for instance, the blue shelter had recognizable white stripes on the top. They also featured a message that inspired people to share their ideas on the “People for Smarter Cities” online hub to make their urban area a more comfortable place to live.

“If cities were smarter, then life in cities would be better,” the brand states in the video. It also adds that the project was designed “to spark positive change” and “unite city leaders and forward-thinking citizens.”

IBM is not the first brand that adds comfort to the urban settings with its outdoor promotions. For instance, IKEA has been creating living-room zones at the underground locations and bus shelters for years. But unlike IBM, with its “city apartments” the Swedish retailer pursues a commercial goal, not a social purpose.