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One billboard, in one city, with a message can travel the globe in an instant. It just takes one.

Back in April, Spotify turned one New York City subway stop into a worldwide art exhibition when it transformed the Broadway-Lafayette station into a David Bowie tribute, tying into the David Bowie Is exhibit at The Brooklyn Museum. According to Spotify, it reached more 50 million people on social channels with no paid amplification.

This is a clear example of the influence Instagram is having on both the placement and creative strategy of outdoor advertising.

As digital advertising’s path to prominence began a decade ago, more traditional adv forms like TV, radio, print, and outdoor saw their cultural relevance deflate, both in attention and the shift in ad budget allocation. Therefore as they realized that our attention wasn’t stuck to one device or another, but constantly moving between media, brand and adv began to more effectively create work that complements itself across different platforms. With social media’s rise, the opportunity to use outdoor space to attract not only eyeballs but active engagement–like posting photos of billboards, posters, wall murals, digital installations, and more–became clear.

“For us, [outdoor advertising] has become a social channel, and we trust that if the creative is compelling enough, people will do the work of amplification for us” says Spotify’s global executive creative director Alex Bodman. “When we do a station takeover like the one, we have at Union Square for our annual Wrapped campaign, the measure of success for me is seeing people stopping to take note of the creative, and then taking out their phones to snap a picture. That’s when we know we got it right.”

Spotify’s senior global brand director Alex Tanguay says that as the company has started developing more creative work in support of artists and their record releases, it’s the billboards that generate the most excitement. “For them, these billboards are iconic moment that they celebrated, often with a post on Instagram,” says Tanguay. “In turn, our media investment takes on a life of its own inside the earned-media world of Instagram for artists and their fans.”

Recent research by Nielsen reports that 1 in 4 US adults surveyed have posted a photo on Instagram after seeing an outdoor advertisement. That’s higher than almost any other advertising traditional media – TV, radio, print or digital banner ad – and it’s also the best bargain. According to the report, outdoor advertising on Instagram is seen by three times as many people, all for the same price as other forms of advertising.

Social networks and outdoor advertising are two platforms that have a natural synergy. Technology is changing the game for outdoor advertising, and with social networks being everyone’s go-to media for trends, it’s no surprise that Instagram, the place for all things photo and visual, is making waves. In fact, despite the smaller portion of ad share garnered by outdoor advertising, it was the top advertising platform to drive Instagram posts across all offline media and banner ads.

Ultimately, brands are increasingly thinking about how their outdoor advertising can attract and encourage Instagram users to become a more personal form of earned media, the key word being earned. Instead of interrupting your sightline with some random billboard, a campaign must earn your attention so much so that you actually might take the time to post it.

When you consider the Instagram factor, outdoor campaigns become less about creating ads and more about creating culture.

How do people interact with content in public spaces? The key is to consider content and context moving beyond the idea of filling a blank rectangle on a building.

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