There’s a tree down our road and it’s not safe. It has survived the
cable companies and their attempts to bring trench warfare to SW6. And,
despite Hammersmith and Fulham’s most ferocious efforts, annual pruning
hasn’t seen it off either. No. The future of our tree is threatened by
some sad individuals who lurk within this industry. They are responsible
for ‘ambient media’.
Not sure what I’m referring to? Ambient media covers a gamut of nasty
little bits of branding, adhered to objects which were never designed to
Filling-station nozzles, stair-risers at tube stations, inside holes on
golf courses - nowhere is safe as these new-age fly-posters attempt to
outdo each other. If it’s visible to the public and it’s got a
reasonably flat surface then it counts as an ambient media site.
For in the bizarre world of the ambient media specialist, if an object
remains stationary for long enough, why not add it to a schedule? But
where do we draw the line? Where does advertising become pollution?
The people who work in this area of the business slap each other on the
back as they congratulate each other on ‘new frontiers’ being
‘pioneered’. But where do these pioneers run out of virgin territory?
Why stop at shopping trolley sites and the backs of bus tickets?
Let’s go big! Let’s brand whole buildings (Sainsbury’s missed an ambient
media trick with the National Gallery) and let’s find sponsors for parks
and open spaces (just wait til Fisons’ name is picked out in 50-foot
letters by the lawn-mowers at Kew Gardens).
Of course, the shiny suits will start to bleat about how we are simply
‘catching up with the US’. But in North America, many people have
recognised that the planet does not need to be branded. Whole states
have recognised the problem by turning their backs on poster hoardings.
As long as these media vandals are out there looking for
‘opportunities’, nothing is safe. Don’t they realise that all they are
buying and selling is clutter and ugliness. A campaign that is intrusive
simply because it is a blot on the landscape can’t be described by some
cheerful planner as ‘effective’.
If some ambient pioneer starts to eye up the tree down the road as an
‘opportunity’ then he or she had better be ready to deal with a large
blunt instrument and no mercy. Somebody has got to take a stand - it
might as well be me.
(Regular readers will note that the shadowy figure at the beginning of
this piece no longer resembles the Diary editor. This is because in a
desperate attempt to convince people that he doesn’t write these rants
himself, he has inserted his Mum’s image. And she has better things to
do than rant about ambient media! Want to rant? Write to Stefano
Hatfield at 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP.)