Good Design: United Way garbage can ad

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United Way garbage can adThis United Way ad is a 10-inch-high strip that wraps around the lip of trash cans around Calgary’s downtown core. The text reads something like: “I take bottles from this garbage to get cash because I can’t make ends meet so” (and then it repeats).

Why is it good? For most advertisers, it would be a disadvantage to put an ad on the side of a garbage can. Your organization is immediately associated with the trash. What’s good about this piece is that it is mindful of its context, and takes advantage of it — it is dependent on its setting for strength. It’s a concept piece, and whoever designed it found a way to make the side of a garbage can work brilliantly with a United Way campaign.

You can credit the entrepreneurial garbage can adspace owners for selling the space in the first place, but still, the designers did a lot of things right. She or he had to…
* Ensure that the text would “loop” successfully when wrapped around the bin
* Choose colours and fonts that will look great on the side of a garbage can (the black matches, and the messy-but-readable font is perfect)
* Craft a message that communicates a clear message, but does it with grace and subtlety.

All of this gives meaning and power to this ad: it’s smart artwork AND it’s a clear message. At no place does it say “Give money to help homeless people,” but it communicates that message anyway.

All in all, a refreshingly well-executed ad from United Way.