EDITORIAL: Guerrilla advertising is on the prowl once more

Just like the World Cup in 1998, the millennium celebrations may fall prey to ’ambush’ marketing. And, just as in France, there’s not much anybody can do about it.

Just like the World Cup in 1998, the millennium celebrations may

fall prey to ’ambush’ marketing. And, just as in France, there’s not

much anybody can do about it.



For little more than the cost of a full-colour page in a regional daily,

guerrilla advertisers will be able to laser- beam their messages on to

Buckingham Palace, or even the Millennium Dome itself, shove the gear

back in the car and make their getaway faster than the face-slapping

Tango man.



So much the better if a few of Fleet Street’s finest can be bussed in to

witness the cheeky bravado of it all. And as long as the hijackers don’t

push their luck by flouting libel or trespass laws , it’s unlikely

anybody will take the time or trouble to pursue them through the

courts.



Nigel Mansell, Concord’s managing director, suggests that this is

anarchy as well as being unfair to legitimate advertisers. But even he

concedes that the genie is out of the lamp and cannot be put back.



As ambush marketing grows, so do the problems of ’policing’ the rights

of approved advertisers and sponsors. Witness what happened at the 1996

Atlanta Olympics when Nike set up its own hospitality and promotional

village and ran extensive poster campaigns near the main venues

featuring athletes under contract to it.



Nike paid nothing for associating itself with the games, yet 70 per cent

of people questioned in a survey believed the company was an official

sponsor. A survey before France ’98 revealed that most consumers didn’t

even know who the tournament’s sponsors were.



It’s easier to admire the hijackers’ chutzpah than it is to find much

sympathy for the Olympians or the leaders of world football who sold out

to commercial interests long ago, and whose avarice has rebounded on

them.



One result may be that advertisers and marketers are going to be less

inclined to buy multi-million pound sponsorship packages - especially if

they feel they are not going to get a big enough bang for their

bucks.



Maybe some will become ’hijackers’ themselves. And in an industry that

needs bravery and innovation if it is to continue flourishing, that may

not necessarily be a bad thing.



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