Times Square is littered with advertising. It rolls across video screens and live tickers, it’s seen on posters and billboards, and it’s even handed out by passersby at every corner.

With all this stimuli, you might wonder, is it even possible to stand out in the Big Apple anymore?
Thanks to the work of Saatchi & Saatchi, an IRL Experiential client and an award-winning global advertising agency, it definitely is.

On a recent “How Far Will You Take It” campaign for Toyota’s RAV4 SUV, Saatchi & Saatchi devised an experiential billboard that would not only grab attention in New York’s busy Times Square, but one that would become a social media sensation as well: A billboard-turned-rock-climbing-wall, complete with live climbers and round-the-clock action.

The results were, put simply, mountainous.

Experiential Billboard
Experiential Billboard

“The best experiential media, whether it’s on a billboard or it’s on the ground, is something that’s going to get people to stop and stare, take a picture and share,” said Patricia Turosz, director of client partnerships for IRL. “That’s what we’re aiming for, so it has that afterlife.”

But passersby weren’t the only ones impressed by the groundbreaking campaign. The billboard was also fea-tured in The Hartford Business Journal, several industry publications and AdWeek, which said this may be the year advertisers “redefined the billboard.”

A Living Photo Op

With a massive, 120-foot climbing wall hoisted high in Times Square, the “How Far Will You Take It” campaign got instant notice. It was the first billboard of its kind in Times Square and the tall-est outdoor climbing wall ever to be built in New York City.

Though the billboard stood tall from late March to early April, the real action took March 22–24, when professional climbers took turns scaling the sky-high wall from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, as tourists, locals and passersby looked on. Christina Fate, a novice climber and rally car navigator for Toyota, also climbed the wall.

“We didn’t want to just talk the idea; we wanted to prove the idea,” said Erich Funke, vice pres-ident and creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi. “And the idea is not just how far can you take your vehicle, but how much can you challenge yourself?”

During the live climb event, thousands stopped to snap photos, take video and post their thoughts to social media, watching in awe as the professional climbers scaled the wall in a mere 10 to 15 minutes each. This online buzz was exactly what Saatchi & Saatchi was hoping for.

Experiential Billboard
Experiential Billboard
Experiential Billboard

Building the wall

With plenty of experiential and out-of-home campaigns to our name, Saatchi & Saatchi came to IRL Experiential for help in executing this one-of-a-kind advertisement, and we were more than excited to help.

The IRL team spent 6 weeks hammering out the details of the 120-foot tall climbing wall, which required two connected billboards, more than 6,000 pounds of steel and countless city permits and approvals.

IRL also helped find the billboard’s prime location – the side of a Hilton hotel and atop a busy subway stop. But while nailing down the perfect spot was hard, it was the wall’s steel structure that held the true challenge.

Changing the industry

It seems the live climb event is just the beginning of a new and changing out-of-home media space, which will likely see more and more experiential campaigns as the year goes on.

“You’re going to see more of it,” Turosz said. “It breathes a breath of new life into outdoor media because of the social media echo that is created with such events.”

Expect IRL Experiential to be a part of that changing space.

“With the right client, if they’re open to it, we like to propose an experiential idea,” Turosz said. “It’s really a client that’s willing to take a risk to do something to stand out and has the time and the budget to execute. But not all of our experiential executions need a huge budget. We’ve done some cool things with smaller budgets, but still got quite a bit of social media attention.”
the wall’s steel structure that held the true challenge.

Experiential Billboard
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