Remember the last ad you saw? Chances are you can’t and least of all be able to correctly name the brand being advertised.
Given the sheer number of messages and imagery our brains absorb in a day, it’s not surprising they all get a bit muddled, so the advertisers have to go to great pains to ensure that we are at our most receptive, grabbing our attention when we least expect it. Try to forget an ad on the jacket of a cow; cut into a field of wheat, when you’re staring out of a train window; and there to greet you: inside the 18th hole. It’s called ambient advertising, the new wave of advertising that gets brands noticed, and advertising agencies awards for its ingenuity.
And to prove that no place can escape its prevalence, ads can even be there at our final resting place. Yes, gravestones became the medium for last year’s launch of Acclaim Entertainment’s new PS2 game, Shadow Man: 2econd Coming. Relatives of the recently deceased were invited to get in touch, in return for cash to help them with the cost of their beloved’s funeral. Hailed by Acclaim’s marketing manager as ‘deadvertising’, it is a form of advertising that many no doubt hope is already dead and buried.
Advertising may be omnipresent but it is also getting more targeted and personalised than ever before and the internet is catching on. Your past purchases or recently viewed products enable Amazon.com to present you, like an attentive sales assistant, with a list of books that you may be interested in buying or invite you to make £12.56 (or whatever) by selling your past purchases.
In an overcrowded marketplace, one tin of beans can look and taste like the next. So instead of being sold its merits we are sold a lifestyle that advertisers think we yearn for. We all know this by now and the youth market, in particular, has become cynical of the exploits of the large corporate advertiser to try to get inside their mind. Advertisers have responded by making their ads less corporate and individualist, from the Sprite ‘image is nothing’ ad to the pseudo home videos of the new Xbox ads. To appeal to this growing generation, advertising will be barely recognisable as such. And in the face of increasingly fierce competition, to win us over, it will have to know exactly what we want or we just won’t listen.