06 April, 2009

Intern Sweatshop: Ambien(t) Lets Me Sleep at Night

Ambient advertising -- ads in unusual places such as manholes, curbs, the sky, and the bottom of golf holes -- calms my conscience. It helps me forget I was once a “culture jammer” who dreamt about graffiti-ing billboards, but now angry moms think I’m brainwashing their kids. I sleep soundly knowing that people still talk about and enjoy advertising thanks to ambient ads.

Some of the best examples take McLuhan’s saying “the medium is the message” to a new level.


Here are a few for your viewing pleasure:

1) Ogilvy & Mather in Thailand



















2) Rapp in London



While others make creative, although not entirely relevant, use of existing spaces:

1) Ogilvy & Mather for The Calcutta School of Music



2) BBDO New York



3) JWT London


(Forgive the use of candy-related ads. It’s lunch time.

You can browse more great examples here.)

Although I currently enjoy ambient advertising, my culture-jamming self questions when it will become obsolete. To better understand this process, I have created the Campbell Model of Advertising Interest Levels. This is a historically proven model, created by The Almighty Me, that analyzes emotive and action-based responses to advertising.




(Campbell, Erica. 2009. “What I do when I write blogs.” Renegade. Maryland: Intern Sweatshop.)

Currently, ambient advertising is transitioning between the Enjoyment and Ambivalence phases. It has been around for more than 10 years, so it has effectively passed Intrigue. And it's inching toward Ambivalence thanks to the anti-advertising folks who think it “clogs the cultural environment.” Either way, it's far from the Nothingness stage in which ads become more useful as bird cage liners.

When will ambient advertising become entirely irritating? When talks about mobile marketing began, consumers viewed it as another invasion of privacy. We have yet to see the year of mobile marketing’s booming success, but opt-in, targeted ads and services such as Green Bean seem to side-step the issue of unwelcome cell phone ads. Mobile marketing attempts to mold itself to consumers’ wishes, but I don’t think the same is possible for ambient advertising. You can literally side-step a giant highlighter on a yellow curb, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s in your way.


M. M. McDermott hypothesized that ambient ads will lose their novelty when really bad ambient ads gain prevalence. The innovation will disappear, leaving light switches with Colonel Sander’s face on them for reasons we won’t understand. But I wonder if ambient ads are immune to a lack of creativity, especially because the only ambient ads I’ve seen are clever and innovative. This may solely be because it’s a relatively new idea in non-traditional media, but part of me hopes you need a great idea to create an ambient ad. For example, replacing a Bic razor with a chicken wing on a strip of mowed grass just wouldn’t have the same impact.


I've searched diligently for bad ambient advertising. The icing on the cake? There isn't any! But that doesn't guarantee ambient ads will stay that way nor will I always find them novel. As my model has proven, I won’t know until I pass from Enjoyment to Ambivalence. The sooner companies start paying for bad ambient ads, the sooner the ads (and I) will reach the Nothingness stage. But this is the most creative advertising I've seen in a while, so until Tammy the hologram is greeting me in the mall offering free samples of freesia lotion, I’ll Enjoy.

Intern Sweatshop: Ambien(t) Lets Me Sleep at NightSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

9 others 'fessed up:

Jason April 6, 2009 at 1:31 PM  

I don't know. I think you might be wrong about ambient advertising's current location the CMAIL. Novelty is what makes AA work (you could argue the case that all good advertising requires novelty, but doubly so for AA). True, without novel presentations AA dries up. Giant razors shaving fields, and then pastures, and then farmland, and then swaths of urban wreckage would eventually get boring. But that sort of repetition probably won't happen. Given the costs and likely zoning issues involved, only new and interesting AA concepts are going to get through to the consumer.

Ambient advertising is the answer to stale messaging, and isn't likely to suffer the same fate as conventional channels. It isn't constrained by a 30 second time limit or a 10 x 20 billboard. It doesn't have to fit on a single sheet of 8 1/2 by 11 paper. It can be anything, anywhere, live, in-person in all three tactile dimensions. It's performance art for the advertising world, and I think it will hang solidly in the Novelty phase for a very long time.

Jason April 6, 2009 at 1:34 PM  

On the CMAIL. God...I proofed that three times.

M.M. McDermott April 6, 2009 at 1:35 PM  

Advertising that interrupts (and makes the consumer glad it did)- yes, that never gets old and will continue to pay dividends in ANY media. My fear is that, like with many media, ambient could have the potential to get cluttered with shite once (if) the recession ends and marketers venture out of their burrows to spend some dough on stuff that delivers ROI not in direct sales, but in earned media, conversation, and customer affinity.

Jason April 6, 2009 at 1:46 PM  

Yeah, I get that. You see that happening on YouTube with corporate "viral" video. It's cheap and freely distributed, so everyone's jumping on and making some admittedly shite-y content.

That's why I don't think AA is going to succumb to the same suckitude. It costs more than conventional billboard advertising and likely requires more permits and other legal wrangling to get it made. Until it becomes simple and cheap, which may never happen, it's always going to be a pretty robust tactic.

How do I know all this? I don't.

Anonymous,  April 7, 2009 at 11:02 AM  

I believe AA will be in the novelty stage for quite some time and heres why: it might be fading in the minds of some advertisers in terms of its "novelty" because they are (hopefully) current with the latest ads thanks to blogs like this! But to those who have yet to seek, passively encounter, or receive a chocolate stain from sitting on a Kit Kat bench on a hot summer day they will still be engaged for another 20+ ads.

I wish I had a model named after me!

M.M. McDermott April 7, 2009 at 11:06 AM  

Anon.:
That could be true, but if anything, the cost nay prohibit a lot more marketers from using the tactic. And if that doesn't, the possibility that the stunts could backfire or offend folks would scare off a lot of folks too. But for those marketer with balls as big as their imaginations, ambient still has a place.

magazine ads April 13, 2009 at 9:31 AM  

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zolpidem November 6, 2010 at 4:38 AM  

The thing I love most about Ambien is that I can still wake up and function if I need to, and then fall back to sleep. I have three kids, and if one of them wants a glass of water in the middle of the night or falls out of bed, I'm perfectly functional to take care of them, even on Ambien. I sleep great now, but everyone should try to wait until they get into the bed prior to taking the pill. Fortunately, my worst Ambien-induced amnesia stories are waking up and thinking "I wonder who did the dishes?"

generic ambien July 18, 2012 at 10:37 AM  

I have been taking Ambien for many years and am totally addicted to it now. I can't sleep if I don't take it. I guess there are worse things to be addicted to. It is best to take it and get right to bed, no lingering in the kitchen. It really works!

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