NEWS ANALYSIS: Ambient media: what is the truth behind the projections? - Can ambient challenge the big guns outdoors? Mark Tungate investigates

Projecting Gail Porter’s naked rear onto the Houses of Parliament may have been an easy way of generating publicity - but there’s no denying its effectiveness.

Projecting Gail Porter’s naked rear onto the Houses of Parliament

may have been an easy way of generating publicity - but there’s no

denying its effectiveness.

The stunt for FHM - created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, planned and bought

by Motive and executed by Cunning Stunts - was all over the tabloids

like a rash. It even got a mention on BBC 2’s rock quiz Never Mind the

Buzzcocks, when Mark Lamarr referred to it during his relentless baiting

of the nubile Porter.

Although not all clients go to such lengths as FHM, an increasing number

are looking for creative solutions to ensure that their campaigns rise

above the clutter.

Last week a new player entered the arena, as former More Group sales

controller John Scorah announced the launch of his ambient media sales

house, CPA Scorah. It followed claims by poster buyer Blade that the

ambient sector will be worth pounds 51.2 million this year - an 18.5 per

cent climb on 1998.

’As most of the big poster contractors have consolidated, they no longer

have the set-up or inclination to generate new ideas,’ Scorah


’Yet there are plenty of agencies that want to make their clients’

products stand out.’

He also wants to ensure that good ideas are properly exploited. ’Some

entrepreneurs have creative ideas, but don’t have the sales or media

background to develop them. Remember advertising on takeaway lids? One

client did it for a year, then it died a death.’

Inevitably, there is some debate about what actually constitutes


Danielle Hudson, account manager at another new ambient specialist,

Amber, says it can be anything from ’a show-stopping one-off’ to an ad

on the back of a payslip. ’The best definition is probably ’an ad where

you don’t expect to see it’.’

But there are suggestions that the hype surrounding ambient may be just

that. Mike Segrue, managing director of specialist buyer Poster

Publicity International, admits that stunts like the Porter projection

bring added value to ambient in terms of PR. ’But that’s only if they’re

coordinated properly. If you don’t have good PR back-up, the added value

is lost.’

Segrue is unconvinced that the sector is growing as quickly as some

practitioners claim. ’As a medium, it’s difficult to measure. You can

put a poster in a men’s washroom, but there’s no way of determining how

many people see it.’

Hudson admits there is an element of risk. ’But that’s because the best

ideas have never been done before. We’re not asking anybody to drop

their core press or TV activity in favour of ambient, but if it’s used

tactically it can bring additional benefits. For instance, placing ads

in airline ticket wallets. If you’re advertising a travel-related

product in the press, this extra push at the point of sale may be all

that’s needed to persuade the consumer to buy.’

In that respect, as Segrue suggests, ambient media may have been around

for longer than we think. ’What are beer mats if they’re not ambient

media? And they work.’

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