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Giant billboards in London point you towards your nearest Big Issue seller!

An innovative campaign uses cutting edge technology so that everyone can find their local Big Issue vendor

Finding your nearest Big Issue seller became even easier after they were displayed on gigantic billboards around busy Westfield London pedestrian zones.

And not only did the vendors feature on the billboard, smart technology meant the digital displays updated to show potential customers where they’re selling.

The “I’m here” campaign works like this. Whenever the vendor walks close to one of the digital screens, geolocation technology within their tabard responds, triggering a supersized version of them on the billboard which then points towards where the vendor is.

This lets the local community know when they are at their pitch, directing passers-by to pick up their latest copy of The Big Issue.

If the vendor is busy, customers will be able to buy a magazine from them through the QR code on the digital screen. 

The campaign was the idea of Forever Beta, delivered in partnership with Ocean Outdoors. It was a winner in Ocean’s annual Digital Creative Competition.

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Where's Lawrence? Image: Chris Ward, Ocean Photographer
Where’s Lawrence? Image: Chris Ward, Ocean Photographer

Two vendors, Louise and Lawrence, took part in the pilot.

“This has actually been really good, it was a shock seeing myself up there,” Lawrence said.

“As people walk up they see my handsome mug and then they see me.

“Even people who haven’t bought The Big Issue [before] expressed an interest. At times people have ‘compassion fatigue’ as I call it, but this brings it back, it’s been really good.

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“I want the public to realise there’s no absolute pressure to buy The Big Issue, just have a chat”

Laurence went on to explain: “The magazine literally saved my life. It halted my slide into full blown alcoholism; gave me a route to legitimate earnings; gave my life structure.

“I met some really good people and the foundation was instrumental in getting me in and through rehabilitation.”

A customer finds Lawrence thanks to his big screen self. Image: Chris Ward, Ocean Photographer
A customer finds Lawrence thanks to his big screen self. Image: Chris Ward, Ocean Photographer

Louise said that selling The Big Issue has improved her wellbeing during the pandemic.

“It’s made it much better. I feel more a part of society now I’ve made friends with nice people and it helps my depression and anxiety.

“I felt isolated and depressed and I lost a lot of my customers and friends. Even now the majority of people are not carrying cash. I’m lucky the big issue helped me get a bank account and card reader so fingers crossed things will pick up now!”

Paulo Areas, Chief Creative Officer at Forever Beta, said: “The past couple of years have been challenging for The Big Issue, especially for vendors. Our campaign reminds vendors’ communities that they’re still here, in the biggest way possible.”

“We started by redesigning the iconic red Big Issue vest to incorporate a geolocation beacon that allows vendors to interact with outdoor media in a whole new way. Whenever a vendor walks by a billboard, the tech serves a personal message from a giant, video-version of the vendors.

Support The Big Issue
Each of our vendors buy their copies of the mag for £1.50 each, selling them for £3 and keeping the difference. Visit our interactive map to find your nearest vendor.

“When a vendor is away from their pitch, we use our billboard to let people know exactly where they are – pointing passersby in the right direction. Every vendor becomes a powerful advertisement, increasing their reach and visibility – and letting everyone know that they can buy this week’s copy of The Big Issue from the vendor.”

Ocean Outdoor Head of Marketing Helen Haines, said: “Big Issue vendors are an integral part of our communities. This idea is all about helping them to regain their independence. It’s simple, yet brilliant and a worthy winner of our Digital Creative Competition.” 

The “I’m here” pilot campaign has the potential to be rolled out across more major cities in the UK, giving more vendors access to this innovative technology, helping them to keep working their way out of poverty.

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Every copy counts this Christmas

Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Christmas. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Christmas.

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