Last week, Netflix placed an interactive billboard in the Piazza 24 Maggio in Milan to promote its new movie, A Classic Horror Story.

Reinventing the billboard

While human billboards have been around since the early 1800s, Netflix’s latest advertisement has taken the concept to a whole new level by incorporating a living, breathing person into their billboard’s design. An actor dressed as the movie’s monster paces around inside, following people as they walk by. To the unsuspecting pedestrian, the billboard appears to be a giant TV screen with a motion sensor. It isn’t until the actor steps outside the billboard to scare them that they realize he’s alive.

The billboard gives passerby a hint of the adrenaline surge promised by A Classic Horror Story, and effectively conveys its message “La paura non smettera mai di seguirti” – “Fear will never stop following you” . . . all the way home to your television.

Tried and true

While Netflix’s strategy for the advertisement is certainly extraordinary, it’s not unheard of. Earlier this summer, Adidas created a billboard featuring a tank of water with a human swimming inside of it to promote a new line of inclusive swimwear. Additionally, in 2017 the French Black National Organization used a human man as a billboard, tattooing phrases on his skin to denounce a candidate during the first round of voting in the presidential race. Like Netflix, other companies have also designed billboards to change based on the actions of people passing by, such as Reebok and The Economist.

According to recent estimates, last year advertisers spent over 25 billion dollars on outdoor advertising globally. While the advertising scene has certainly changed thanks to targeted online advertising, statistics show that billboards still play a significant role in driving sales for many companies. Billboard advertising may seem old-school, but it still proves effective – as long as companies continue think outside the box… er, board.