9 great ambient adverts from back when they were a thing

Remember ‘ambient’ advertising? Just over a decade or so ago, it was all the rage. Essentially, it was using non-traditional out-of-home media, in an unexpected manner to deliver a brand message. While traditional billboards and kiosks were also used the creative expression gave it a twist. So we had ice-cream sticks, lamp posts, a seat tray in an aircraft and such like used for advertising. Here are a few others which caught my eye and are a part of my creative collection:

1. Volkswagen Fun Theory

The objective was to get people to use the stairs instead of taking an elevator at a public place in Stockholm. The creative idea was to make climbing stairs fun. Since the idea was from an automobile brand there was a connect to the idea, even though it was tenuous in my view. Also, I guess some sort of branding was visible at the venue so that people could associate the initiative with the right brand.

2. Monster: stuck in the wrong job

Most of us switch jobs for better salaries and responsibilities. It is usually triggered by issues with our immediate bosses and the company. However, the proposition ‘you are stuck in the wrong job’ does strike a chord and acts as a way to rationalise one’s move. Monster.com’s ad campaign scored on this parameter through TVCs and such. An ambient idea in Hong Kong brought it alive well.

3. IKEA – staircase drawer

What better opportunity to re-inforce a brand’s key benefit (organising space) than at the store? IKEA’s store converted its staircase into a chest of drawers.

4. Bounty – Big Spills

‘Make small work of big spills’ was the claim brought alive through some installations in a public place.



5. IKEA – rack

Airport signages are usually reminder mediums like any billboard. IKEA converted their signage into a product demo of sorts, making it look like a rack.

6. KitKat: take a break

‘Have a break, have a KitKat’ has been the brand’s proposition for ages. A simple installation – a park bench brought this idea alive.

7. McDonalds – fries

A regular zebra crossing was converted into a brand message for McDonalds by simply making them look like a pack of fries.

8. Adidas – FIFA World Cup 2006

The kick off match of the FIFA World Cup 2006 was to be held in Munich. An installation, dramatically depicting Oliver Kahn, the German goalkeeper was not only the talk of the town but talk of the world.

9. Copenhagen Zoo

‘The wildest place in town’ was the pitch for Copenhagen Zoo. It was captured brilliantly in this bus design.

So what’s changed between then and now? I think the lines between what constitutes outdoor, PR, stunt, activation and ambient have all blurred further now. The ‘Fearless Girl’ installation is a classic example. It is ambient, PR and outdoor all the same time. Some of the principles which made for great ambient ideas still hold good even today:

– it doesn’t matter if it a one-off creative piece of work potentially seen in real life by a few thousands. If executed well, the idea can be seen by millions around the world thanks to YouTube, social media and 2zx7 news channels and portals. In 2008, The Economist used a pizza delivery box to deliver its messaging
– the idea has to be simple, yet striking and must have some relevance to the brand

The category may not be called as ambient anymore, but the principles remain the same.

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