Monday, February 23, 2009

What Makes A Good Ambient Ad?

This week is going to be Ambient Week on Scamp.

I hope it will be fun.

Let's start off by asking the most obvious question - what makes an Ambient ad good?

Mostly it's the same things that make any ad good: clever, funny, relevant, well-branded, powerful sales message etc.

But there are certain characteristics which the Ambient medium offers that no other medium can. And a truly great Ambient ad exploits them. I would suggest these characteristics are Disruption, Provocation, and Super-relevance.

Disruption. Much more so than a press ad, an Ambient ad can be right in your face. A Swedish coffee brand that had the tagline 'for unexpected visitors' built a submarine bursting out of the middle of a city square. And several religious organisations have used inflatable churches - if people won't go to church, let's stick the church by their office, or at the beach.

Provocation. The fact that an Ambient execution is 'real' - i.e. not just a picture of a thing, like on TV, but the actual thing itself - makes it more visceral. This means that Ambient work has a greater power to shock and awe. And at its best, it is wonderfully provocative.

And finally, Super-Relevance. Because an Ambient ad is situated in the real environment, it can be used in a location-specific way, thus giving it a kind of 'super-relevance' that other media can never quite achieve.

This was the first Ambient ad I ever came across - it was given to us as an example in college. And it's still one of my favourites.

The message is tied in perfectly to its physical location.

So those are three examples, I could have picked hundreds more. But do let me know what you think of them, and whether my criteria are the right ones, or if there are other criteria for judging Ambient you feel would be more appropriate.

And keep your own submissions coming in, to simon dot veksner at bbh dot co dot uk. They'll be featured soon.


Bodecker said...

"There's a man dying in here. Get out of our way"
That was the best bit of ambulance media I ever saw. And in India of all places.

]-[appy Thought said...

Perhaps "Universal Appeal" as well?
A good example were some ambient style bus shelter posters that made whoever sat down look like they had massive afros, which is fine if you have short black hair but for everyone else i didn't work.

Anonymous said...

That first one is a bit small. I don't know what it's for. Could you find a bigger one?

Anonymous said...

ambient ads, however witty, will never be anything other than a light joke. no better than some glib tabasco scam ad.

give me a weighty, effective strategic campaign any day. sam & jasons tescos, persil dirt is good, snickers mr.t.

Corblimey said...

Is it me or do urinals provide an endless scope for football related ambient ads?

Anonymous said...

Ambient can be more than a light joke if it kicks off some good PR.

Anonymous said...

"Anonomous" is right about proper strategy and big comms idea thinking coming first. This is critical. But he/she too easily dismissed the tactical brilliance of ambient and guerilla media activities, that can very often bring a passive campaign into the concisouness of Johnny and Jenny Public by igniting interest and relevance.

I manage c. $100m of media pa for a global advertiser, and this kind of creativity and bravery is sometthing we should be delivering with each campaign, as long as it feeds off and activates the right comms strategy.

Good work Scamp.

Jam said...

Security Glass advert is the perfect example of this kind of utility debate. It's a fantastically provocative idea - it made me lean forward, it would make me walk over if I saw it. The question is, how many security experts and buyers wait at bus stops?

Of course, there could be very good research to say, "all of them".

Anonymous said...

I know a lot of big brands like to try ambient stuff. But I suspect it's frustrated creatives working on dreary big brands and taking ambient as a route to get something interesting out there.

Good local ambient ads feel more honest.

One of the best ones ever, was for a local garage (sorry don't know who it was) They stuck a load of ads on mashed up street furniture asking:"need your brakes fixing? come to Joe's garage"

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of ambient but i think too often it's gimmicky. If it's on strategy and on brand and still manages to achieve Scamp's disruption/provocation etc, then I think it's a winner. I love the underwear example.

When it's watered down, by the suits or by the client then I think it's not worth the bother. But that's the same for any advertising, no matter the medium.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with ambient as it is not easily measurable, so clients don't want to pay much for it. That is why so many are cheap/ 'light jokes' usually funded by the agency. While a good idea does not need a massive budget, it is the more expensive ones that have raised the bar in the last couple of years- the Adidas 'soccer' billboard, HBO 'Voyeur' and the Adidas 'Be the ball'. They are, of course a much biiger organisational challenge, and the best ideas all to often are put in the 'too hard' basket, both on agency and client side.

Anonymous said...

I'll say it again: HBO Voyeur is rumoured to have been paid for by BBDO NY.

Aside from that, I didn't understand all the fuss about the VW Ice Car a few years back. From the pictures, there appeared to be no explanation of why this car was made of ice (it comes with air con as standard - geddit?), so how could it possibly work as an ambient idea? If the people involved then say that the information became clear in the attendant press coverage, then it's not ambient media, it's PR.

Anonymous said...

What about Sony Bravias new ad?

Is that a TV ad?

Or ambient?

Or both because they filmed a ambient idea?