Poster Marketing From Uncle Sam to James Bond
  by:  |  Jan 15, 2008

Poster advertising has existed for over 200 years. Advertisers have used large posters to display their wares and promote their products for a very long time. When used properly, a large poster image can serve to communicate things that the written word cannot effectively do. This article will look at certain poster images and how they advertised their product and/or became a part of the American landscape.

1. Uncle Sam

It’s one of the most famous images in modern American History. The poster of a pointing Uncle Sam with the words “I Want You For U.S. Army” underneath. Designed in 1917 by J. M. Flagg, the poster and its image have endured for over 90 years, not only for the historical significance of the poster, but because it is such a simple and arresting image.

The Uncle Sam poster, which was designed to recruit soldiers during World War I, is also a terrific example of the power of posters in advertising. With a simple image and a few words, Mr. Flagg created an image which told a simple story, that the United States needs soldiers and that Uncle Sam himself is asking. Moreover, the pointing figure and the use of “You” in the poster make the general recruitment personal. This isn’t a general plea for help, but a specific request that the person viewing the poster join the army.

2. The Algorithm, the former Ask, was looking for a way to differentiate itself from the larger search engines like Google. They were launching a new search algorithm which it claimed was unique and better than the methods used by Google. But they were left with the problem of how to get people to pay attention to their new system in the crowded search engine market.

A series of advertisements began appearing on billboards across the company with phrases like “The Algorithm killed Jeeves” and “The Algorithm Constantly Finds Jesus Christ” printed on them, with no indication of what they were talking about. Eventually, it became common knowledge that the ads were for’s new search engine algorithm.

The point here was to try to create anticipation for the new algorithm by getting people talking about it. By using the cryptic posters,, got people talking about “The Algorithm.” Once they did that and they revealed the system behind the campaign, the word had already been ingrained into potential users who had seen the posters.

3. The Art of the Teaser Poster: Pirates of the Caribbean

In 2002, Disney was promoting its expensive, potential tent pole film Pirates of the Caribbean. It was something of a gamble, a big budget film based on a Disneyland ride from the 1960’s, with no big box office stars. But what they did have was a pair of very attractive young rising stars in Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom as well as the visually stunning character of Captain Jack Sparrow as played by Johnny Depp. So the very first teaser posters of the film took advantage of those facts, presenting close ups of the young stars and a full length picture of Captain Jack in his full pirate regalia.

This created a connection between the fans and the new movie. They had already seen these characters and were interested in seeing the film behind the images. Since such solo character posters had always been reserved for big stars in big budget films, Bloom and Knightly came across as bigger stars then they were at the time. The posters started the film off with considerable momentum and the result was a giant hit and a huge franchise for Disney.

4. They Cast Who as James Bond?

MGM was facing a problem. They were attempting to reinvigorate their James Bond franchise with a younger, grittier version, taking the character back to the basics established in the Ian Fleming books. They were also looking to use a slightly younger actor to play the role, both to fit the beginning of Bond’s career basis of the story and to have an actor who could appear in the series for years without ever reaching an age which made him seem to old for the part.

With those goals in mind, the producers cast the relatively unknown Daniel Craig, who had previously been best known for playing a thug in a low budget film. The fan response to the casting was overwhelmingly negative. Craig was decried as being too coarse and unsophisticated looking to play the part of the refined secret agent. This left the producers with the problem of having to find a way to win over the fans to their choice and reducing the concerns that Craig had been miscast.

They accomplished this with the first teaser poster for the film. The teaser showed Craig in a classic Bond pose, sitting at a gambling table in a black tuxedo. The poster said exactly what it needed to say. Craig looked natural in the shot, filling the tuxedo in a completely Bond-ish way. The fans eventually took to Craig as Bond and the movie was a huge success.


The above examples show how the effective use of poster advertising can help create interest in a product. Given the effectiveness of poster advertising, there are probably thousands of similar examples which could have been chosen. With the 10% discount being offered by U-Printing this month, the time is now for you to see just how much posters can do for your business.