Ambient Advertising: An Overview

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An Introduction Ambient advertising refers to advertising through any non-traditional media. The term ‘ambient advertising’ was coined during the early nineties when clients began demanding ‘something a bit different’ in their advertising. It could appear as messages on the backs of car park receipts, at the bottom of golf holes, on hanging straps in railway carriages, on the handles of supermarket trolleys, or on the sides of egg cartons. It has been gaining the favour of marketers ever since the bombardment of advertisements has made it very expensive to get meaningful results through traditional advertising media. It exponentially increases the means through which a consumer can be reached as every item that a potential consumer can see, hear, feel, smell or taste is fair game.

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Advertising has, to some extent, been a victim of its own success. As the ad clutter in any one media increases, each individual campaign suffers diminishing returns.

The Evolution of Advertising Advertising has its origins in ancient Greece and Rome where papyrus was used to make sales messages and wall posters. Advertising has come a long way since then, always growing until the media it grew through could no longer sustain its growth. In fact advertising has been so successful that it has completely altered the revenue models of its chief media of growth. Newspapers, radio, television and the internet largely depend on the advertising revenues they generate. Advertising has, to some extent, been a victim of its own success. As the ad clutter in any one medium increases, each individual campaign suffers diminishing returns. This forces ad men to look at newer, more effective media for their advertisements.

Defining ambient advertising Defining ambient advertising is a tricky affair as what may be considered nontraditional media today may no longer remain so tomorrow. For example, a few years ago advertising through bus wraps was unheard of and the first few such advertisements evoked a lot of interest among the audience. There were news reports about the initiatives taken by the state governments to generate additional revenue which further added to the promotional value of the advertisements. Today, however, very few people would even bat an eyelid if they saw such an advertisement on a bus. Around an year ago, Airtel entered into an agreement with the Indian Railways and rolled out the ‘Airtel Rajdhani’ which was essentially the Rajdhani express wearing the colours of telecom giant Airtel. This advertising exercise was covered

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by several news channels, the newspapers and even made it to a few magazines. News reports state that a crowd had gathered to see the first Airtel Rajdhani that rumbled onto the Bangalore railway station. 1 As is evident from the example above, even such a seemingly small change in the advertising medium, from buses to trains, can have huge repercussions on audience reactions. When advertising through a medium gains wide-spread popularity, it fails to surprise the audience and can no longer be called ambient. Ambient advertising can, therefore, be defined as an attempt to increase brand recognition and recall by surprising the target audience either by advertising in an unusual location or through unusual execution.

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Ambient advertising can be defined as an attempt to increase brand recognition and recall by surprising the target audience either by advertising in an unusual location or through unusual execution

Benefits of Ambient advertising Because of its very nature, the scope of ambient advertising is so widespread that the avenues for reaching the consumer are practically endless. When a previously unexplored medium of advertising is used, there is no existing market for this medium. Without an existing market the ambient marketer is able to procure rights to advertise through the medium at a significantly lower cost than using a well established medium. As a medium for advertising...
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