1st article on marketing

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Posted by Lilly from D007173.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu ( on Thursday, November 28, 2002 at 11:02PM :

Interesting article exposing marketing strategy.
words by Stephen Armstrong
Voyager Magazine, BMI inflight magazine (UK)
October 2002

From pub toilets to the white cliffs of Dover, advertisers are using high impact messages in bizarre spaces to shock consumers into brand awareness.

To what do Vaseline Deodorant strap handles on the London Underground, an Organics "live" poster with Melinda Messenger actually standing there, an Adidas laser projection on the White Cliffs of Dover and a 3D hologram of a Peugeot 206 on floors nationwide have in common? Well, they're all part of ambient media, the advertising equivalent of The Strokes - hip, edgy, underground and making loads of money.

The name may sound a bit funny. After all, ambient advertising sounds like the sort of laid back sales messages that chilled out creatives would produce in a soothing blue room. You'd expect ambient ads to whisper softly in your ear as you stand on a hillside or flit briefly in front of your eyes as you stroll home through lamp lit streets. In fact, ambient advertising is about as up front and in your face as you can get. Ambient ads are in public toilets, they float down the Thames, they are suspended from scaffolding on building sites, they are smeared across the floors of supermarkets and on the lids of takeaway cartons. Ambient ads are everywhere.

Here's a list. See how many of these you've always thought was an ideal spot for an ad: Maltesers changing the Heavy Load symbol on HGV's to Lighter Load; a semi naked Gail Porter projected onto Big Ben; Coca Cola's new Fanta flavour drink on the back of school bus tickets; anti-car crime warnings on petrol pump nozzles; Rockport Shoes wrapping a lift at Convent Garden underground station; Supernoodles Vindaloo flavour covering pub toilet cubicles in police warning tape.

As this list demonstrates, ambient advertising has come to mean "all the other stuff that isn't posters, papers, mags, telly, and radio". It's backlit shop signs and Absolut ice skating rinks. It's Next Customer Please bars at Safeway's and it's television screens in nightclub urinals. If it moves - or if it's still - you can slap an ad on it. There's even an enterprising farmer along the M1 who rents out his cows to advertisers after his "hoot to save British beef" cow poster excited agency interest. And ambient advertising is just going to get bigger and bigger.

"Ambient media grew up in the 1990's when it was becoming increasingly hard for advertisers to reach young audiences who went out clubbing, and business audiences at a time of fragmentation in television and radio," argues Richard Weir, marketing director at Manchester's Hi-Tech Solutions, which operates washroom poster panels across 100 leisure groups. "Advertisers these days want cost effective media and they want media which can prove it is effective. We're getting big brands advertising with us and, in the face of recession, they're spending more and more."

PICTURE CAPTION: Name game: brands are getting wise, targeting their core market with free products at selected events or making an impact with branding emblazoned across major sites

Reports from Concord, one of the UK's largest mainstream poster companies, backs this view up. In 1996, when the ambient sector was first identified as a proper economic force, the industry took 17.4m. In 2001, that had risen to 113m. Forecasts for 2002 put it higher still and this in a recession hit advertising market where almost every other kind of media has seen cutbacks, redundancies and shrinking budget. Indeed, so successful are ambient advertising's flyposting teams that Westminster Council has been forced to increase the size of it's anti-flyposting team for the fourth year running and is painting its Soho lampposts with special anti-sticker paint.

Perhaps one of the reasons ambient's attracted so much attention from advertisers is because, well, ambient attracts so much attention from the punters. Cunning Stunts in London's Hatton Garden specialises in headline grabbing, event-style marketing such as floating a giant football pitch down the Thames for Dockers. Cake Media in West London has painted an entire Manchester street pink to launch a new Barbie and placed fountains in nightclubs flowing with Evian.

Cake's work crosses the line between advertising and PR, according to creative director Mark Whelan. He masterminded the Pokemon launch stunt which saw the agency distribute film footage of heavily laden Pokemon lorries crossing borders and filling ferries as they raced to satisfy UK demand. The footage ran on News At Ten. The lorries arrived in London completely empty whilst Pokemon's landed at Heathrow airport in a cargo plane - just as they had always planned to.

But if you find this idea of shouty advertisers jumping out at you from the lid of your takeaway carton a little bit intrusive, then you're not alone. And support comes from an extremely unusual quarter. In March of this year, Andrew Cracknell, executive creative director of Bates UK, the agency responsible for Sky television, Wella and B&Q's advertising, wrote an impassioned article in adland bible Campaign, saying enough was enough. He cited the example of filing up at a petrol station and hearing a blast of advertising over a loudspeaker as soon as he turned his nozzle on.

"I think it's important to point out that I will be 56 years old in October," Cracknell says, wryly. "This may just be the whinging of a man in late middle-age, but I think it's an important point for me personally and professionally. I think there should be such a thing as private space. I've recently taken up sailing and I'm convinced that, in part, this is because I love seeing a view that's remained unchanged for thousands of years, hearing the silence and avoiding all the clamour of the 21st century. Perhaps I'm becoming curmudgeonly. Professionally, however, this is actually self serving and, I believe, important. People allow adverts into their lives if they are witty, entertaining, and don't throw their weight around too much. Let's not blow it."

Cracknell points out that ambient advertising has been around as long as advertising itself. "They were draping posters over Beachy Head in Victorian times," he says. "And P.T. Barnum was pulling stunts and pasting fly posters around 19th century New York. Barnum managed to generate artificial moral outrage about a slightly nude statue in a curiosity shop which ended with the poor quality gift selling out and sailors having it tattooed on their arms."

What worries him is an audience backlash against advertisers invading every inch of our space, feeling that it's possible for advertising to be seen as a form of cultural pollution if it isn't careful in its approach. The ambient industry, as you might expect, doesn't exactly sympathise. "The point is to get noticed and to get people talking," says Anna Carloss, Cunning Stunts md. "People either love it or hate it, but most people seem to love it. You've got to be cheeky and quirky and it's a great way of getting through to young people who tend to be out and about, not watching television or listening to the radio where conventional advertising is to be found."

Of course, some places are currently safe from the intrusion of the ambient world. As you sit back in your seat, sip your drink and read your copy of Voyager, you can relax in the knowledge that the ads are where the ads should be and the words are where the words should be. But now that we have your attention, dear sir or madam, perhaps we could point out the benefits of the second hand mountain bike we have in our garden shed. Bikes! They're great! Buy one now!

-- Lilly
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