How To Run A “Wild Posting” Campaign (Without Getting Arrested)
When one thinks of “wild posting” (also known as “flyposting” in the UK), the image that tends to spring to mind is of masked vandals “fighting the system,” putting up posters decrying the evils of corporate culture (or maybe just plugging their band).
But in fact, this fundamental form of guerrilla marketing has become increasingly popular among highly respectable companies, including Sony, Interscope Records and Apple. Apple’s famous “silhouette” campaign for the iPod, for example, gained much of its notoriety from the iconic posters placed throughout major cities.
The appeal of wild posting is its ability to reach potential customers in a completely unexpected way. Imagine walking down a familiar street in your hometown and seeing a massive number of flyers posted side-by-side. The visual spectacle catches you off guard, practically forcing you to pay attention to it.
Unlike other types of outdoor advertising (such as billboards), posters are inexpensive and rely strictly on manpower and creativity to get your message in front of customers. Still, it can be a somewhat controversial technique, not to mention aggressive. Many companies will pay big bucks to “snipe” prime ad space in urban areas, even covering up existing posters if they have to. And not all wild posting tactics (even those used by big name companies) are exactly legal, which can lead to serious complications.
How a Marketing Campaign Turned Into a Bomb Scare
In 2007, police in Boston, Massachusetts were alerted to the presence of several odd-looking placards placed in public spaces. The LED devices looked similar to Lite-Brites, displaying a character making a rude gesture. Police officers shut down highways, bridges and public transportation systems while bomb squads disabled the suspicious devices. It was later revealed that the harmless placards were actually part of a guerilla marketing campaign commissioned by Turner Broadcasting, promoting the Adult Swim cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
While this is a pretty extreme example, it shows how guerilla marketing can have serious legal ramifications, especially in post-9/11 society. Even if you’re posting simple flyers, it’s vital to make sure you obey all of the laws in your region related to wild posting.
Where is Wild Posting Legal?
In most cities, it’s illegal to place posters on private property without express permission from the owner. Always speak to the manager before posting anything on the outside of a store or restaurant. You may even want to have them sign a release form to be 100% sure that you’re in the clear.
Public spaces may also require some sort of permit when wild posting, depending on where you’re located. Many places, however, have specific areas where nearly any sort of flyers may be posted. College campuses, for example, are fantastic places to do wild posting; they often have bulletin boards set up for exactly this purpose. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, you can also lease space to post your materials. In urban areas, space on the plywood walls surrounding construction sites is often purchased.
Effective and Legal Wild Posting in 5 Easy Steps
Form a strategy. Once you’ve decided that wild posting is right for you, brainstorm ideas for where your posters will receive the best possible response. Consider your target audience and where they’re likely to spend time. If you’re selling an energy drink or a fitness-related product, for example, it might be a good idea to put up posters near popular gyms.
Learn the law. Be sure to do research and educate yourself about the laws and ordinances in your area. Contacting your local government is a good first step. Acquire any permits or permission needed to place your posters in spaces where they’ll receive maximum exposure.
Create your posters. Bright colors and striking imagery tend to work best when you want to stand out. Consider creating two different flyers with different colored backgrounds so that you can place them next to each other in an alternating pattern. The contrasting colors will help catch the eye of pedestrians. Try using large headlines to create a poster that informs the viewer even from a distance. Including contact info, a URL, or a QR code will encourage the people who see your poster to take action.
Decide on a method of posting. The way you post your flyers will largely depend on where you’re posting them. Staples work well on many wood surfaces, tape is effective on windows, and thumbtacks are the natural choice for bulletin boards. Many guerrilla marketers use an adhesive mixture known as wheatpaste to affix posters to concrete walls. Wheatpaste can be made at home with common flour and water, and is mostly impermanent. But again, always check with the manager before using it on private property.
Hit the streets. Hire a “street team” or enlist volunteers to put up posters around town. Remind everyone of where it’s not legal to post, and to get permission before posting anything on private property. Supply them with any permits and release forms they’ll need.
Wild posting is an opportunity to be creative and take your marketing directly to the streets; it can be an exciting, unexpected and “in-your-face” way to appeal to your audience. But guerrilla marketing doesn’t have to translate into illegal marketing. With careful planning and forethought, it’s easy to engage with potential customers while avoiding embarrassing legal trouble.