I have a sneaking feeling that I may have written this column before -
after five-and-a-half years of devoted service it’s hard to remember
exactly. But no matter. The old ideas are sometimes the best and,
anyway, at least it’s consistent.
It’s about the continued onslaught of new media opportunities (that’s
new as in different or alternative, not as in hi-tech), as people dream
up ever more inventive ideas for placing advertising. Last week’s
Campaign, for example, carried two of the more exotic instances. One,
toilet advertising, was treated as a joke on the Diary page, although
it’s obviously a serious business for some poor soul. The other, Ad Lids
- selling the space on lids of takeaway containers - was treated
It is, of course, all too easy to ridicule such concepts, all the more
so given the portentous language with which the salesmen puff up such
stuff. Take the Ad Lids’ sales pitch: potential 600 million new ad sites
per year...most exciting new medium since DRTV... reach consumers in a
relaxed frame of mind... desirable ABC1C2 15- to 44-year-olds...wipe-
clean lids...blah blah blah. As far as I can see, the only thing they
forgot to claim was interactivity since, obviously, you can design your
own ad by dribbling tandoori sauce and pilau rice all over the lids and
then throwing up inside those little foil containers.
Now I’m all for people coming up with unusual media opportunities - it
can add spice to our lives.
As a consumer, however, what concerns me is the growing incidence of
advertising-related visual pollution. We’ve had egg shells, cows,
jockeys’ trousers. But what happens when there is no space left that
cannot be sold? The more consumers are confronted by ads everywhere they
turn, the more the coinage is devalued and the more they put the
You could, of course, argue that this applies to standard advertising.
But at least that has an indirect benefit to us, the consumer. Leaving
aside the fact that advertising is fun and useful (well, not all of it,
but you know what I mean), we know that press advertising funds our
newspapers and favourite magazines. We know that it pays for ITV to
bring us the European Champions’ League. I know, too, that poster
advertisers, as well as brightening up the streets, put money into my
local council’s coffers. In that sense we, as consumers, have an
unspoken contract with advertisers and the media. They fund our media
consumption and, in return, we look at their ads.
But where’s our payback for putting up with ads on takeaways? Will the
revenue benefits be passed on in the form of cheaper spring rolls? Will
Still, all is not lost. Despite all the hype about BT’s famous eggshell
ads, I note that the medium has signally failed to take off, which leads
me to conclude, thankfully, that there are some spaces that will remain
forever ad free.