AN A-Z OF AMBIENT: Tim Woolgar charts the paths to success and failure in the ambient landscape

A is for Aroma, a popular twist in conjunction with poster and ticket promotions and undeniably effective, though it needs to be used with care.

A is for Aroma, a popular twist in conjunction with poster and

ticket promotions and undeniably effective, though it needs to be used

with care.

The smell of Gordon’s gin sprayed into a cinema caused palpitations

among recovering alcoholics in the audience.

B is for Buildings used as an advertising backdrop, preferably very

large and very well-known, such as the Houses of Parliament which were

famously hijacked by Sega.

C is for Cows - the country’s most visible herd during the BSE crisis

carried ads for MarketingNet in a shrewdly timed stunt that delivered

massive free PR exposure.

D is for Dover - Concord’s classic Adidas laser-projection on to the

White Cliffs in June 1998 featured the nation’s best-loved footballer,

David Beckham, in the UK’s biggest ad.

E is for Eggs - shell ads were sold by the kilo-dozen, but few

remembered the advertisers (BT was one) and the ’eggverts’ soon went


F is for Floors - Eyes Down Media says clients’ unease about consumers

trampling their brand image is offset by results. For example, Sunkist

soft drinks enjoyed a sales increase of 74 per cent.

G is for Guerilla - Tango Man gatecrashed a News at Ten Parliamentary

report and Kiss FM’s party bus showed how crazy ads can work for crazy


H is for Holes on the golf course and in the pockets of good sports,

like the Turkish Tourist Board who bought them. ’Ads-in-the-hole’

failed, however, after below-par results.

I is for Indian - Disney’s Pocahontas was promoted in London with a

genuine American Indian sending smoke signals to motorists on the

Cromwell Road.

J is for Jet - there are no flies on the budget airline, EasyJet, which

set a precedent by painting its phone number on aircraft fuselages.

K is for Kiosks - airports, train stations and supermarkets are prime

sites for kiosks which may incorporate internet access and an

opportunity to purchase.

L is for Lids - Adlids, which sells space on takeaway cartons, says

successful campaigns have included Woodpecker cider and Clorets breath

fresheners - Rennie’s is apparently yet to take the initiative.

M is for Mobile - moving ads bring the message to the people, says TDI,

which sells ads on the London Underground and buses around the


Gimmicks include lenticular printing for animated 3-D illusions.

N is for Nozzles - petrol stations are getting more like supermarkets

and forecourt advertising is booming, with pump nozzles among the

premium sites. Takers include Castrol GTX, Red Bull and Virgin


O is for Outdoor as in the great outdoors, exploited by Beck’s which

planted a field full of flowers in the shape of a beer bottle, which was

seen by more than five million rail passengers.

P is for Phones - public telephones are among the newest locations to

fall prey to ambient advertisers, following PhoneSites’ acquisition of

the rights to BT’s pay phone network.

Q is for Queue TV - launched in the 80s by Aspen Marketing and

trailblazed by Post Office Counters which proved ’they also purchase who

only stand and wait’.

R is for Ridley Scott whose film Bladerunner, with its talking, flying

billboards and genetically engineered logos remains an aspirational

classic for all ambient fans.

S is for Swing doors on airport baggage carousels, taken over by

Volkswagen to describe how many suitcases you can fit in the back of its


T is for Taxis and Taxi Media’s fleet of brandable London cabs plus

optional sales support from the driver - takers include the Financial

Times and Evian.

U is for Urinals - Emap Radio used heat sensitive graphics featuring the

pop stars, Liam and Noel Gallagher, and the nation’s then most-despised

footballer, David Beckham.

V is for Virtual technology enabling TV broadcasters to create digital

posters, usually at sporting events, so viewers in different regions can

see different ads, which are different again from those seen by

spectators at the ground.

W is for Waste-bins pioneered by Trash Media’s ’It’s bin a long time

coming’ with their rotting-veg promotion for the dance artists, Daft


X is for X-rated - near the knuckle ambient ads have included a naked

Pamela Anderson beer mat jigsaw for Bravo TV and Emap Radio’s

’stub-a-celebrity’ ashtrays.

Y is for Yellow Pages - its award-winning refurbishment of a London

Underground Train set the pace for others, including the Vaseline

deodorant and Nutri-Grain strap-hangers.

Z is for Zeppelins and other inflatables whose ability to deliver

powerful messages from a great height has been demonstrated by, among

others, Good-Year and Virgin.