In this day and age of online media, cookies, click-throughs, and tracking customer characteristics and tendencies all in order to influence them towards a product or a brand, have we lost touch? Every day people are barraged with cookie-cutter online ads, banners boasting free shipping, splash pages getting in the way of that interesting article, rich media begging for interaction, and video commercials interrupting their favorite streaming show. That’s why advertising and marketing campaigns that are different, funny, or maybe even a little controversial can be a breath of fresh air to a consumer.

As a Bergen County local, over the years I have noticed some very refreshing advertising with some great attitude. Of all the places, the Hillsdale Public Library caught my eye time and time again with a simple plastic lawn sign and a whole lot of attitude and wit. Changing nearly every week, the sign correlates with holidays, prevalent pop culture, sports, and even weather (always with a focus to encourage the public to read more). For David Franz, the director of the Hillsdale Free Public Library, and his staff, what started as a way to make basic announcements for library programs, eventually developed into so much more.

“These mundane announcements were necessary, but boring. After that, staff became creative,” David explained. “We began to use the sign to imbue a sense of whimsy. The sign could be used to give the building some personality. mayansignThe sign acquired attitude. Our Library now has a serious sense of humor. In time, people began to look forward to our sign.”

The locals and I aren’t the only one whose attention has been grabbed by the low-tech sign. The New Jersey Library Association presented a Public Relations award to the Hillsdale Library at its annual conference last June.

When kids are picking up iPads® and Xbox® controllers more frequently than a paperback, the library’s sign is a pivotal step in breaking the negative library stereotype of a place with an almost eerie quietness and a musty smell. Creating some noise and breaking stereotypes like these can be vital to keep younger audiences interested. And thanks to a lawn sign, some fearless creativity, and modern technology, those audiences have been interested. On December 18, 2013, a photo of that little plastic sign of theirs with a caption referencing the Mayan “end-of-the-world” date went viral. It reached 64,340 people on Facebook, got 6,596 likes, was shared 1,261 times, and accumulated 567 comments.

The local library isn’t the only institution using some attitude and creativity to break stereotypes and drive interest in today’s younger generation. President Barack Obama recently stirred up a lot of noise with an appearance on the web talk show Between Two Ferns with comedian/actor Zach Galifianakis through the website Funny or Die. While many political analysts criticized his appearance on the program, it definitely left an impact. In fact, the video had attained millions of views less than 24 hours after its initial posting, and by the following day, saw a 40% increase in traffic.

With some creativity, the moxie to break from the norm, and maybe even a little attitude, advertising/marketing campaigns can turn heads and truly captivate an audience. Edward de Bono said it best: “Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”

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