What makes a good Ambient idea?

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In the recent past, several copywriters have either approached me with ambient ideas or shown ambient stuff in their portfolio. It is usually accompanied with much wide-eyed enthusiasm and an obvious itch to have it executed. Most of the stuff is in the area of shock or surprise and expectedly, for ‘social causes’ (anti-smoking being the favourite one). But very few stand out – that’s true even with ambient ideas on the ad blogs. So what makes a good ambient idea? Is it different from an idea for mainstream mass media? Herewith some unsolicited response:

Stratagem: the ones that make us go, ‘Clever!’ or ‘Wish I had thought of that!’ involve some kind of stratagem –and I use the word in a positive manner. It’s about grabbing the attention of the consumer in a most unexpected situation and then going on to deliver a relevant message.


Relevance: Going beyond shock and awe, if the message can be linked to the location or mindset of the consumer it has a real chance of being memorable. Like this ad for a holiday destination on an airline food tray.


The other example I can think of  is the ad for UNICEF on a shopping trolley.

A twist in a familiar tale: people have to come to expect interactions with media to be in a particular way. A billboard will have a picture and an advertising message. When a creative idea breaks that expectation it stands out. This example may be classified as outdoor advertising but worth learning from.

Absolut - Lotto

Jaw dropping simplicity: this may seem like an oxymoron, but when an idea gets through in a telegraphic instant because of it’s sheer simplicity it stands out. All it took for DHL to mount this campaign was a paper cut out and some glue.


Another example of simple, yet relevant was the idea for 3M’s Security Glass where they stacked what seemed like real cash in a glass kiosk. Google Video’s ambient idea was also in the area of ‘oh so simple’ yet so impactful.

There are other elements of course: if the idea creates some buzz and gets the local media talking that’s a great bonus. What according to you makes a good ambient idea? Do comment, with some examples?

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