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3 Things to Keep in Mind Before Executing a City Takeover

by Caitlin McCrary

City takeovers provide the opportunity for a brand to dominate the marketplace with superior coverage through the use of multiple media formats. This is extremely beneficial in today’s world where brands are constantly competing for consumers’ attention. To stand out and make an impact, brands need to disrupt the space and run campaigns that cannot be ignored—such as a city takeover. 

Below are three important things to keep in mind before executing a city takeover campaign for your brand. 

1. Create Messaging That is Specific and Relevant to the City Where the Takeover is Running. 

Developing city-specific messaging and creative for your campaign will help your brand resonate with your target audience. For example, we recently ran a city takeover campaign in Nashville for our client, Ava, a D2C healthcare disruptor that helps women identify their monthly 5-day fertility window. Messaging for this campaign included, ‘Finding your fertile window is like trying to find a parking spot in the Gulch’. This copy connected to something all Nashvillians can all relate to — finding parking in a popular neighborhood. In turn, the messaging was more engaging and impactful to the target audience. 

The animated film, The Grinch, is another example of a recent campaign that did this exceptionally well. The contextual ads targeted citizens and tourists throughout various cities while capturing the essence of the grumpy Grinch. For example, in New York the campaign messaging read, ‘I  love watching tourists try to hail a cab.’ along with, ‘Rude. Loud. Angry. New Yorkers are my kinda people.’  Examples of messaging in Los Angeles included, ‘I could watch you crawl down the 405 all day.’ and ‘Seriously, another day of sunshine?’ This clever campaign generated significant awareness across social media with users calling it ‘hilarious, ‘true’ and even ‘savage’.  

Photo source: oaaa.org

2. Be Aware of Key Events Happening in the Targeted City and Consider How Your Brand Can Contribute and Capitalize on These Events. 

An important factor in a successful city takeover campaign is timing. Before confirming your flight dates, do some research to see what kind of events are taking place in your targeted city and when. Are there events/conferences taking place that align with your brand? Are there key events happening that you could take advantage of to increase your overall campaign awareness and reach? It’s also important to keep in mind that while concurring events do provide the opportunity for increased reach, they could also cannibalize from any events you might be running as well. 

During the Ava campaign, we tailored our flight dates to cover two key events in Nashville, one event being the OBGYN Conference and the second being the 2019 NFL Draft. The OBGYN Conference provided us with the opportunity to reach a coveted and niche audience for the brand while the NFL Draft brought millions to Nashville who were exposed to the Ava brand as a direct result of our out of home advertising efforts, thus increasing the overall reach of the campaign. 


3. Execute Across Multiple Media Formats Throughout the City at the Same Time.  

During a city takeover, it’s crucial that your campaign is executed across multiple formats so that your brand can truly dominate the space.  Run your campaign on billboards, buses, train wraps, bus stops and benches, wall murals — any medium you can get your hands on to saturate the market! Running on multiple formats throughout the city during the same time period establishes brand recognition through repeated exposure to your brand.  

Another tip is to take advantage of media formats that are in close proximity to one another—having them work together to create a cohesive message. This type of storytelling resonates deeper with consumers to create memorable campaigns that can increase overall purchasing behavior. 

One great example of this is when Universal Studios ran a full takeover domination on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles to promote the upcoming release of the film, Minions. The film utilized multiple billboards, posters, various transit media formats, such as fully wrapped buses, along with a barricade unit painted minion yellow, to dominate the prominent North/South thoroughfare. The messaging of the units played off of one another and showcased the personalities of the Minions, showing them as individuals who fans and consumers could connect with. One bulletin featured creative of the three brothers lassoing a banana that was included on the creative of a nearby unit. 

Photo source: oaaa.org

The results: Minions was the #1 film on opening weekend and generated the 2nd highest opening ever for an animated film, taking in $115.7M.


City takeovers can help your brand dominate a market and stand out from the clutter, leaving a lasting impression with your targeted audience. These impressions will not only lead to an increase in brand awareness but can also help to generate conversions, purchases and even establish brand loyalty.

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