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A campaign to help small businesses bounce back after the Covid-19 lockdown - by running free advertising on giant digital billboards across the country - has been hailed an "overwhelming" success.

When New Zealand was forced into a national lockdown in March to stop the spread of the deadly virus, the majority of businesses were forced to shut up shop.

To mark the move to level 3, when many could reopen and start to rebuild, Auckland agencies LUMO Digital Outdoor and Pitchblack Partners launched Up and Running - an initiative dedicated to helping "neighbourhood stores" get back on their feet.

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Covid 19 coronavirus: Billboards across NZ to feature small business in 'no strings' free initiative to boost post-lockdown restart

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Businesses were offered billboard advertising totally free of charge at one of 23 giant LUMO sites across Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton and Tauranga.

Pitchblack took care of the design in the "no strings attached" campaign.

The campaign kicked off on April 28 and within 48 hours more than 500 submissions from small businesses had been made.

Over the next five weeks more than 1500 free ads were displayed, helping hundreds of business owners.

Lumo co-founder and CEO Phil Clemas said the lockdown period was "a very tough time" for most businesses.

"We felt it was important to use our media network for good by encouraging local people to support local businesses," he said.

One of the billboards featuring a small local business displayed during the Up and Running campaign. Photo / Supplied
One of the billboards featuring a small local business displayed during the Up and Running campaign. Photo / Supplied

"Receiving all the positive feedback from small business owners was genuinely heart-warming. I'm just glad we could pitch in and help out so many small businesses around the country," Pitchblack creative partner Tom Paine added.

Many of the businesses who took advantage of Up and Running offered either click and collect or delivery services - enough to get them started under the restrictions of level 3.

Before the ads got to the big screens, Pitchblack took care of the design in the "no strings attached" campaign, with other agencies chipping in to make the campaign happen iincluding True, Wood Studio and EightyOne.

Peter Lorimer from Deep Downs Wines said it was "surreal" seeing his brand "in lights on Ponsonby Rd" during the campaign.

He said the initiative was "awesome" and spread "really positive energy amongst the gloom" of the "challenging times" of the lockdown and restrictions that followed.

Sam Hickey is the co-founder of men's clothing subscription company Asuwere, which recently opened its flagship store in Commercial Bay.

He said Up and Running was "great" at a time "where everyone was trying to figure out the next steps".

"The initiative gave us all some much-needed optimism and it's helped us with the successful launch of our new store," he explained.