How a Minneapolis Agency Fixed the Ugly Billboard Blocking Its Skyline View

The story behind Solve's much-needed upgrade

Staffers at independent agency Solve got sick and tired of silly ads on a nearby billboard ruining their views of downtown Minneapolis. So, they used the billboard itself to solve the problem.

Now, instead of staring at 14-by-48-foot banners for lawyers and kiddie flicks, Solve's 50 employees and their neighbors can gaze out on an unbroken skyline. Sort of.

The clever placement cost $5,000 and will soar above the street for the next few weeks. Here's a time-lapse breakdown of the project:

Solve Solves

Below, Solve execs explain how it all came together.

Muse: So, this concept was right outside your window, waiting to be discovered?

Joe Stefanson, ACD: That billboard was a running joke at the shop. One day, we were sitting in our main conference room, where the billboard is most visible, and it dawned on us. We said, let's use this to as an opportunity to improve our view and show what we do best—solve a unique problem with a unique ad.

How'd you achieve that cityscape effect? We're not actually looking through the vinyl, correct?

Ryan Murray, president: It's not transparent material. But it was painstakingly and precisely put together—with protractors—to appear so. It's a photo of the skyline that we took from our roof. Then, to create the layout, we aligned that image with our view from the conference room. So, when looking at the board, it basically recreates the downtown skyline that'd be present without a billboard sitting there.

It's a potent agency promo in the wild, plus it's generating media coverage.

Ryan Murray: It's a unique opportunity to put our name out there in a big, tactile way—one that can't help but get noticed by passersby and current/prospective clients and employees. You can't scroll past go-big IRL branding!

What if some advertiser wanted Solve to make a billboard that would obstruct, say, a scenic view on the highway. Would you turn away the business?

Ryan Murray: We've never had a client of that nature and don't foresee one in our future. The idea for our board was to be additive to the area—which any well-designed billboard should strive to be. A lost art, for sure. And definitely lost on the local realtor and personal injury lawyer boards we've been staring at for years.

Naturally, Solve's been touting the work on social.

Other notable Solve efforts, also with IRL elements, include a "Snack-Sized Pub" for Président Cheese and a "Just Yesterday" exhibit for the Weisman Art Museum.

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