Media: A one-trick pony but at least sound-card ads are innovative

As shown by the mediocre performance of Channel 4's comedy Nathan Barley (an audience low of 700,000 compares with an average in the 10pm Friday night slot of 2.5 million) most people are less than fascinated by the minutiae of London media. They also tend to tire of one-trick ponies.

So I am intrigued to see how a Procter & Gamble press ad for Herbal Essences, currently running in Marie Claire, will go down. If you haven't seen Marie Claire yet, the ad works like this: open the magazine at the Herbal Essences spread and you're met with the sound of the woman from the TV ad groaning "Yes! Yes! Yes!", courtesy of a sound card embedded within the page.

P&G is claiming a media first on this one (though stitching a sound card into a print ad is quite a specific thing to be first with). Putting aside the obvious embarrassment if you happen to open the magazine in public (or the reminder of more joyous times on the back of a bus if you're on public transport), it's bound to create some sort of impact above the usual plethora of spreads to be found in the average women's monthly title.

On the whole, it's good to see further evidence of innovation in magazines, this time driven by Marie Claire's owner IPC Media. Craig Foster, P&G's brand man on Herbal Essences, claims: "The ad enhances Herbal Essences' communications strategy, where we are always looking for new and innovative ways to reflect the unique character of 'naughty but nice'."

This may be, I suppose, but P&G has been elusive on how much the exercise cost and it's hard to see many other advertisers following suit (but then cynics probably suggested this when the first "scratch 'n' sniff" - not the technical term, I'm sure - perfume ad appeared in magazines years ago). Magazines are now littered with this device.

But then at least this is an example of a magazine at the forefront of format innovation, something that the magazine world has rather lost to the outdoor industry. So much so, that Campaign can compile an annual list of the ten best outdoor innovations (my personal favourites in 2004 were the "opinionator" from JCDecaux, which allows punters to interact with posters via a voting mechanism, and Clear Channel's "vibro-sound" bus shelters - though travellers in Lancashire in 2003 must have been frightened to learn that they could access a team talk from the scary football manager Graeme Souness, at the time the manager of Blackburn Rovers, via a poster).

You'd be struggling to name five, let alone ten, magazine innovations each year. All developments are welcome, but don't expect sound cards in magazines to become the norm. This is a cheeky, surprising one-off that works on that basis. If repeated six times, like Nathan Barley, it won't work.

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