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Out of home displays boost National Geographic’s Photo Ark campaign

By Nancy Fletcher, President and CEO, Outdoor Advertising Association


Whether driving down the interstate, waiting at a train station, or visiting city centers like Times Square, consumers across the country were inspired by out of home (OOH) media featuring images from National Geographic’s Photo Ark – a bold, multi-year project aimed at saving animals at risk of extinction.

The Photo Ark images, call to action, and hashtag – See What We Can #SaveTogether Before It’s Too Late – were part of a multi-platform creative campaign, which was featured on a dynamic mix of billboards, digital displays, transit, cinema, and other OOH ad displays. In all, the images appeared on more than 72,000 donated ad spaces nationwide.

The campaign was a collaboration between the National Geographic Society and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), the national trade association for the OOH advertising industry. The goal was simple: use Sartore’s portraits to educate and inspire action – protecting animals on the brink – in a way that would reach new and diverse audiences. It was the perfect pairing, to use the power of storytelling through stunning imagery, with a robust mix of ads to serve as the visual booster rocket for awareness and engagement.

“This was a game-changer,” Sartore said. “The campaign’s unique ads enabled us to put the plight of at-risk species in full view of new and diverse audiences with unprecedented nationwide reach.”

The campaign launched on Endangered Species Day (May 19, 2017), with a “takeover” in Times Square and other activities and events. An interactive component of the campaign invited people to visit a National Geographic photo station and take a selfie with a Photo Ark image. Visitors then had the opportunity to see their selfies appear on a Times Square digital billboard in real time.

Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC were among some of the other major cities that participated in the Endangered Species Day digital takeover for the #SaveTogether campaign.

In the first five days alone, the campaign reached more than 50 million people via the OOH ad displays. In addition, Sartore’s animal portraits also were featured across National Geographic’s channels including the magazine, books, and traditional and social media platforms. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) aired a three-part series, RARE, featuring the images.

The OOH campaign wrapped in September, reaching more than 600 million people on social media.

Norton was one of the many OOH industry professionals drawn to Sartore’s impressive body of work. In May, Sartore was a top-rated speaker at OAAA’s national convention in New Orleans. Many in the audience responded to his call for help, wowed by the majesty of the striking images of the rare animals staring straight into the camera.

Kevin Gleason of Adams + Fairway Outdoor Advertising displayed Photo Ark images on billboards in multiple states, and brought the powerful message of conservation closer to home. Aware that the Monarch Butterfly had declined dramatically in recent years, Gleason took a critical step to help save them by allowing milkweed to proliferate in certain areas of his Santa Barbara-area property. The larvae of the Monarch butterfly eat milkweed.

“It’s stories like this that are so rewarding,” Sartore said. “Engaging, creative advertising helped us accomplish what we set out to do – saving animals together, one image at a time, one person at a time.”

The combination of Photo Ark images in displays outside of the home is a testament to the marketing principle that powerful visuals evoke emotions and produce deeper engagement. Experts on memory and comprehension explain that humans process visuals much faster than text. Long before the camera, man etched animal images in stone.

Joel continues to work full-time, traveling the world to build the National Geographic Photo Ark. So far, he has photographed more than 7,000 animal species worldwide, creating a record of endangered species. The vulnerable animals featured in Sartore’s Photo Ark were photographed in zoos and conservancies worldwide, including the US, Singapore, Czech Republic, Australia, Panama, and Canada. Overseas, billboard groups are exploring international display of Photo Ark next year.

“Projects like this aren’t possible without great partnerships that harness the passion of like-minded organizations, like OAAA, to confront the serious issues facing our planet,” Sartore said.

About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.