OUTDOOR/AMBIENT: EYES DOWN - From floor media to rickshaws and cars, Pippa Considine rounds up the latest innovations in ambient media

Supermarket sweep



It all started with trolleys. Now point-of-sale ambient media is worth

£25 million, according to Concord's annual survey, and advertising

in supermarkets and garage forecourts is firmly on the advertising map.

The pre-eminent UK company in the supermarket business is the Media

Vehicle Group, now part-owned by Clear Channel.



Six years ago, the group chief executive, Jessica Hatfield, set up shop

flogging posters on trolley-sides. Today, with most major retailers

signed up, she can offer the likes of Nestle, Unilever and Mars a reach

which takes in 90 per cent of all UK households. Using the Media Vehicle

and other outfits, such as Eyes Down Media, advertisers can buy

nationwide campaigns including everything from ads painted on the floor

beneath the trolley wheels through to the Media Vehicles latest 3D image

effects in-store. Or, if your audience is more likely to be the top-up

shopper rather than the trolley-filling consumer, you can take an ad on

the side of a wire basket. Nescafe chose the basket for its Martin

Clunes campaign, adapting its "beautiful mug" strapline to "pick me

up".



Planes, trains and automobiles



If you can't afford a bit of Formula 1 sponsorship, then perhaps a

rickshaw would serve your purpose. Advertising on vehicles has become a

science in itself in the past few years. While TDI has turned tube and

bus-side advertising into a high-profile, mainstream medium, there are

other outfits offering bicycles, rickshaws or a variety of makes of car.

Buggy Media is one which will decorate Beetles, Minis or Smart Cars. And

don't forget the use of airships and hot air balloons or the unmissable

EasyJet logo daubed loudly on its planes, especially visible if you live

or work in west London.



Taxi advertising has grown in tune with the ambient vehicle sector, with

two of the leading companies - Barnett's and Taxi Media - now owned by

the More Group. While ads inside cabs existed more than 20 years ago, it

took a decision by the Public Carriage Office in the mid-80s before they

started to paint the outside. The rest is history. The expression "black

cabs" is now largely figurative, since they are as likely to be wrapped

in an ad for The Economist or Ben & Jerry's ice-cream at the cost of

£5,000 (per annum, all-in). It's also become acceptable to "buy"

the cabby along with his or her vehicle. South African Tourism takes all

80 of their cabbies on a freebie to South Africa to inspire a bit of

positive PR to flow around its sponsored fleet.



The big splash



In most people's minds, lasers or projected ads have lodged in the

consciousness along with Gail Porter or the Wonderbra campaign. Although

not exclusively used to scoop press coverage, it's certainly one of the

best ways of getting value for money from this form of ambient media.

Especially if you're talking projected ads, which have a shorter shelf

life than their laser counterparts.



At Laser Creations International, the managing director, Marilyn Weeks,

explains the difference: the laser can show moving sequences, is more

complex to set up and more expensive, coming in at £3,000 per

night; the slide projector produces a static image and costs half the

price. Her company can provide both and has worked for plenty of

blue-chips such as Nike, Adidas and Dior. She reckons that slide

projection has only really got going in the past six years or so, as

advertisers have latched on to the PR capital to be made, while lasers

have been around for about 20 years or so.



There are a number of outfits which will now put a 50-metre high picture

of your managing director on the White Cliffs of Dover or the Houses of

Parliament for you (how legal that might be is a grey area). Or, for

something a little more permanent, you could go to specialists such as

Mega Profile to sound them out on the biggest poster sites in town.



'Washroom' humour



Where to run ads featuring a bunch of grapes with the strapline

"seedless" and the objective of encouraging men to have a vasectomy?

What could be more natural than in men's loos. Marie Stopes is one of

the latest in an increasing stream of clients to sign up to the use of

what the media owners prefer to call "washrooms". One of the biggest

outfits is Admedia, which started up in the mid-90s and now has sites in

all motorway service stations and 220 shopping centres. As well as the

more obvious clients, such as Pharmacia with an ad for incontinence

relief, Admedia's client list includes Mercedes-Benz, McDonald's, Mars,

Coca-Cola, BT and Cadbury's. Not forgetting Duckham's Oil, which set up

a stunt ad with a fake urinal constructed above the others on the

wall.



New technology has also brought urinal ads which can be activated when

aimed at. Another company in the washroom business is CPA, which has

blue-chip clients including Levi's and Sony and is the first company to

bring accountability in the shape of barcoding to washroom ads. It seems

washroom ads, which started out in the US 30 years ago for local

advertising, have entered a new dimension.



Postcards from the bar



At first people used to slip one or two into their pocket discreetly,

not sure if they should have paid one of the bar staff, but it's now

routine to sift through the free postcard racks at clubs and restaurants

across town and stuff a fistful into your bag. Postcards are one of the

highest- profile elements of a division of ambient media which the

poster specialist Concord defines as "distributive". Concord's survey

judges the whole sector, including everything from takeaway lids to wage

slips, to be worth £27 million in 2001, increasing a whopping

fivefold since 1996.



The postcard business is largely sewn up by an international outfit

called Boomerang. Boomerang Media in the UK bought out one of its

biggest competitors earlier this year. It now distributes 220 million

postcards each year out of 3,160 venues. Advertisers can buy into a

whole series of different sorts of venues, including cinemas, health

clubs or secondary schools and Boomerang claims that its School Cards

have a higher reach than the top five teen magazines combined. Takers

have included Virgin Cola, while Tropicana ran a successful campaign

across health clubs.