In a world where many of us aim to compress as many important elements of our lives as possible into one device, many components of who we are and what we own cannot be digitized. A cup can’t be made digital. Nor can an exterior wall, or our skin. And so, these items can, counter intuitively, become the most impactful mediums to connect with others.
In fact, some of the objects hold the unlimited possibilities of a blank canvas, ready to host a message that, for a business, can enhance brand identity and builds brand values. Compared to the cluttered digital realm, the value of available real-world white space has gone up. Our connections with family and friends, our jobs, our shopping, our love lives, our entertainment—these are all online now, so the easiest way to take a break is by ignoring the device and looking up and out at our surroundings. It is our job to make sure that when the global population looks up, they see something they like.
In Brazil, Ogilvy has released a new campaign, “Tattoo Skin Cancer Check,” supported by Rio de Janeiro-based sunscreen brand Sol de Janeiro. This campaign trains Brazilian tattoo artists to look for the early signs of skin cancer and encourage their clients (who are young and high-risk) to visit dermatologists. By looking at the blank canvas that lies behind tattooed skin, the artists can add value to their services.
In downtown New York City, exterior building walls on East Houston and Elizabeth streets have become prime real estate for public art murals. Sure, billboards have always used this model, but now pushing ads on pedestrians isn’t enough; it’s time to aim for deeper engagement and use space in a way that pedestrians will want to socialize about and document in personal photographs.
In North America, Chipotle and Starbucks have recently made waves with their packaging campaigns, which leverage the opportunities provided by their blank canvases. Chipotle is publishing short stories by famous authors and entertainers— including Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis and Judd Apatow—on their cups and bags. Starbucks has invited its American and Canadian customers to decorate their iconic cup and post it on Instagram with the hashtag #whitecupcontest for the chance to have their design printed on a limited-edition reusable plastic Starbucks cup.
I’ve always liked to exploit non-traditional white space. Even before the age of 4, I found drawing on paper to be much too obvious, too constricting; I preferred the walls or my freshly scrubbed body as a canvas. Of course, this was a frustration for my mother (read: for those who have to deal with the mess), but if there is no destruction of property, all that remains is the excitement and freedom of making a big, unexpected statement—and hopefully injecting the world with some craftsmanship and tangible creativity for everyone to enjoy—a rare gift in this digital age.