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Unmarketing billboards provide relief from ads on the highway

Unmarketing billboards provide relief from ads on the highway

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If there’s one thing I know about advertising people, it’s that we simultaneously love and hate our industry. What we love is sharing exciting ideas that influence behaviour by inspiring or provoking people in clever ways. What we hate is the fact that more than 99% of ad creative we see is just “noise” that commercializes our personal environments.

This conflict is why, in 2011, I called an art installation by Lead Pencil Studio, which framed a natural view through negative space in place of an ad, “The Best Billboard In The World.” But now it may face some competition for that title, from a similar concept that is as high-tech as the other is low.

Healing Tool, by artist Brian Kane, is “a site-specific art installation and visual realignment” along two interstate highways in Massachusetts, USA, that can be seen until July 26.

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“The goal is to provide a moment of temporary relief and unexpected beauty during the daily grind of commuting,” reads the artist’s statement. “The piece builds on a body of work which simulates digital experiences in the real world. In this case, simulating the Photoshop Healing Tool to replace or patch over the landscape which is blocked by the billboard.”
During the day, high-resolution digital images replace the landscape that would otherwise be blocked by the billboard. After dark, it switches to views of the moon or the milky way (views obscured by light pollution). The images use a parallax effect to increase their realism as motorists approach the boards.

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This subversion of augmented reality — to erase the advertising space rather than insert noisy commercial images into the environment — creates what Brian Kane calls “an unexpected moment of introspection.”

As someone who has been responsible for the content of his fair share of billboards, I love it. Everyone needs a break sometimes.

As seen on The Creators Project. All images © Brian Kane, photographed by Nate Wieselquist and Simone Schiess.

Thanks to Chris Frantz for the tip!

I am Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. Read more