• Portland Press Herald

Portland ad agency shines with new L.L. Bean ‘sunlight activated ink’ ad


The New York Times insert produced by The Via Agency is readable only when taken outdoors.

A Portland advertising agency received national attention Friday for creating an L.L. Bean print advertisement that is visible only in sunlight.

The ad, which ran as an insert in Friday’s New York Times, came about through a combination of strategy, technology and creativity, according to Leeann Leahy, CEO of The Via Agency.

Indoors, the ad appears to be mostly blank space. It contains just a few words scattered across the page, which say, “L.L. Bean,” “Be an outsider,” “Bring this outside,” and “No, seriously. Take this outside.”

When exposed to sunlight, the ad’s missing text appears in sky blue, photochromic ink in a manner similar to a Polaroid photo developing, but faster. It begins, “Welcome to the outside. Where there are no strangers. Only friends we haven’t met yet.”

The ad goes on to extol the virtues of an outdoor life, and it encourages readers to explore the outdoors. It does not specifically mention L.L. Bean or its products. Once the ad is taken back indoors, the text quickly disappears.

Leahy described the text as a “manifesto” that was developed by the agency as a guide to the ad campaign it is producing for L.L. Bean, which is called “Be an Outsider.” She said it originally was intended for internal use only...

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