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Ambient Advertising

Ambient advertising refers to almost any kind of out-of-the-home advertising which occurs on an unusual medium.

This includes placing advertising messages on sandwich bags, pizza boxes, hot air balloons, beer mats, and on the back of car park tickets. Objects that carry the advertising are known as ambient media.

Ambient advertising has increased in popularity over recent years due to advertisers’ dismay at the declining effectiveness of traditional advertising mediums. Initially some media outlets have expressed their concern regarding the ability of ambient advertising to establish itself as a viable long term form of advertising:

“Ambient advertising contains the seeds of its own destruction… because once the approach is copied and becomes commonplace, it ceases to surprise,” Guardian, August 1997

However, a decade on and ambient advertising, whilst not taking off in a huge way, shows no sign of going away.

One criticism is that this form of advertising lacks accountability, as noted by Sunday Business all the way back in 1998:

“The genuine impact of ambient media is difficult to measure as it often takes TV and press coverage to attract wider public attention to it.”

Whilst there is truth in this statement it is also identifying one of the major benefits of ambient advertising – it gets attention. Not only do consumers notice it but the media frequently does as well, thereby placing a small ground-roots marketing campaign in front of mass audiences.

Consider the case of the internet bank Smile.co.uk. To create widespread awareness at minimal cost they chose the ambient advertising route. Having been voted best online bank for 5 years running Smile.co.uk has many happy customers and they wanted a form of advertising to illustrate this. What did they come up with? Advertising on bananas in supermarkets. The campaign perfectly complemented Smile’s brand image and in addition received national press coverage.

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