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September 21, 2021

Smoking ad joins the ranks of distracting, new wave of billboards

You get the sense that, with each new innovation, marketers aren’t nearly done with their billboard experiments.

Consider: that sign in Charlotte earlier this year that spewed the smell of peppercorn steak with a fan and some air cartridges. Like the scented ads in magazines, only fifty feet high in the air, right?

Well, it appears advertisers aren’t finished with their billboard tinkering, after all. Last week, in South Dakota, drivers met the world’s first smoking billboard.

Yes, to promote its Avera emergency medical services brand, U.S. ad agency BVK put up the billboard you see to your left, depicting the scene of a car accident, smoke and all.

With a smoke machine hidden behind the billboard, the ad gave off the appearance the accident had just happened, and the wrecked car was really smoking.

Sounds innocent enough, but good Samaritan drivers in South Dakota kept calling 911 on the billboard, leading to its being shut down by the Sioux Falls Fire Rescue only two days after its debut.

Though that’s not to say the billboard wasn’t a success. While distracting, the provocative billboard was quite effective in promoting Avera.

According to BVK: “It worked, driving thousands of people to go online in the first week of the campaign.”

So, then, with an interactive visual in South Dakota – and a mouth-watering scent in Charlotte – it’s worth wondering which senses advertisers will try to feed next.

Maybe it’s already among us. In London, AdWeek notes, there’s now a billboard for the Wonderbra … in 3D. This is one idea, surely, Everydaymoney gives its full support.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money

(*Image courtesy:



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...