Buying White Space

I'll be the first to admit that I don't speak great Japanese. To be honest, I don't speak any Japanese at all. But a friend sent me this link with a premise so interesting that I couldn't resist posting about it, regardless of the risk that it may be completely out of context.

According to my friend, this neat bit of printing news is that in Tokyo – one of the billboard / outdoor signage capitals of the universe – businesses have started to buy up billboard space in order to leave it blank and clear up the skyline a bit.

Lately, folks have started to notice that prime billboard real estate in Tokyo is going blank, and the word is that this isn't the product of the recession, but of an investment in white space.

Some of these billboards (so the story goes) are even digital, and have been covered in plain paper by investors. What did I tell you about digital billboards being too, too much!

Of course, this could simply be a misunderstanding of a Japanese blog post by English readers, but regardless, what a concept! Even the most fervent print lover has to admit that billboards – especially when they're digital, and so crammed together that they block out the sun – are not exactly crowd-pleasers. Imagine the interest one could attract if a billboard adspace is deliberately left blank! And actually covering a digital billboard in paper takes the concept to a whole other level by cutting down on light pollution.

Could it be that 2010's biggest advertising trend will be anti-advertising? And if so, how do investing businesses get the word out that they're responsible for clearing up the billboard clutter?

It seems like the best idea here might be to buy digital adspace and paper it over with a subtle “you're welcome!” style print ad. Particularly in areas with a lot of private homes, digital billboard controversy is reaching a boiling point. A smart business could garner great attention by papering over these eyesores with a print ad.

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