Some of the modern world’s boldest new marketing campaigns have taken to the streets in grandiose displays of commercial eye candy. The contemporary convention of the billboard as we knew it is evolving, now yielding some interesting, experimental results.

Here we have several of the last year’s most creative, larger-than-life promotional campaigns. And while they’ve successfully drawn the consumers’ eyes with their impressive scale, some push the envelope to what some critics would consider distasteful.

Brewdog:

Founded in 2007, Brewdog began as a two-man show crafting beer out of their garage and is now Scotland’s largest independent brewery. They’ve already established multiple brewpub locations in Scotland (Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow) and most recently in England (Newcastle, Manchester, Nottingham, and Camden).

The brewery is finding widespread success through its “craft beer revolution” marketing campaign, and the company’s great potential is now manifesting itself throughout the UK.

These guys are bona fide marketing geniuses. Brewdog’s delicious, meticulously-crafted beer aside, the speedy success they’ve found is no doubt due to their edgy and unconventional promotional prowess. They’ve created what was at one point the world’s strongest (55% ABV) and (still) most expensive beer, packaged in a “roadkill koozie.” They’ve defied corporate beverage giant Diageo’s crooked beer award-recall and turned it into a PR opportunity for their “almost award-winning beer.” They’ve even given a whole new meaning to the imperial stout.

And now they’ve screened images of the bare naked co-founders onto London’s Houses of Parliament.

And another ad projection on the Battersea Powerstation.

Photos courtesy of Brewdog

Brewdog’s ballsy new marketing gives them what is possibly the best billboard money can buy. These are the kinds of curious ads that are guaranteed to catch the passerby’s eye. Few images are going to surpass the bizarre impact that a duo of disrobed men have on a national landmark.

The Dark Knight Rises:

The third and final installment of Christopher Nolan’s epic Batman adaptation films approached with great anticipation across the world. Considering the incredibly high-grossing and endeared Dark Knight, Nolan knew he had to follow up with an even grander experience.

A movie this big required promotion of equal magnitude; an advertising campaign so painstaking that it would trade the traditional billboard for a gargantuan building mural.

Image courtesy of Tor.com

The 150-foot-tall Batman was finished in nearly five days by Art FX Murals’ team of four die-hard painters. Under midsummer’s sweltering sun, the craftsmen filled out the wall with impressive detail. They began by gridding the wall with outlines, and proceeded to paint their way down from the top on two adjacent scaffolds.

The process is described in greater detail by Tor’s Irene Gallo in her investigative article from July.

This wasn’t Art FX’s first run at the idea. The company has been actively recreating the side of New York City’s 315 Park Avenue South for many years now, with a new advertisement hitting the space every six or so weeks.

Photos courtesy of Dan Cohen

In an age of LCD display billboards, painted advertising (especially on this immense scale) is a rare find. But I’d argue that it’s worth the investment. Not only does the final product attract significant attention, but pedestrians become enthralled as the process unfolds. Word of mouth is a powerful ally, and a display like this gets locals talking as they witness each movie poster’s erection on the urban pallet that is 315 Park Ave South.

Mad Men:

The Emmy-nominated AMC series hit the network once again for the premiere of its fifth season in March. Mad Men’s visually-compelling (and often debauchery-filled) drama has become a sensation since its inception in 2007.

The show’s opening credits feature an indistinct black and white doppelganger of ad man Don Draper’s metaphorical self. The character’s fancy corporate office dissolves all around him and he begins to free fall past the giant advertisements, seductresses and half-empty tumblers that characterize his existence.

And of course, with any season premiere comes a healthy dose of advertising.

Mad Men got the word out by utilizing their iconic falling man image paired with mysterious bits of rhetoric. Taking a large-scale yet graphically-minimalistic approach, the ads were placed in subway stations, on staircases, taxi cabs and even up the side of urban complexes.

Undoubtedly an impressive spectacle to behold (and an exciting reminder to any Mad Men fan anticipating the next upcoming season, such as myself).

With over three and a half million viewers on the night of the season 5 premiere (over 600,000 more watchers than the season 4 premiere), it’s evident that AMC’s rampant advertising efforts have made a positive impact.

But one thing that they weren’t counting on, and somehow managed to either overlook or disregard, was the possibility that the “falling man” plastered to the side of a skyscraper could evoke some touchy connotations.

Such as, say, it’s unsettling resemblance to the infamous photograph of a man falling from the world trade center towers on 9/11. The building-billboard triggered a public outcry, with citizens and 9/11 victims’ family members alike voicing their concern with the ad’s disturbing lack of sensitivity. However, the brand defended their choice of visual content, stating that, “The image used in the campaign is intended to serve as a metaphor for what is happening in Don Draper’s fictional life and in no way references actual events.”

Let AMC’s brilliant yet seemingly blundered ad campaign serve as a reminder to advertisers everywhere. The potential connotations of an image can piss people off, and many times get people talking. When a controversial ad hits headlines, company CEOs are forced to weigh the pros and cons between viral attention and the resulting image of their brand to future consumers.