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Ambient media: the key to target group communication

Kolja Wehleit describes the evolution of ambient media in Germany, and outlines the results of ground-breaking research into its effectiveness

MBIENT MEDIA ARE a new and trendy option for low-budget advertising, as well as progressive brand communication. Initial research results have confirmed what experts suspected ambient media are more about strategic brand communication than just another tactical channel to deliver a message to the consumer. An obstacle for employing ambient media as standard tools of mass communication has so far been a doubtful level of accountability and a weak database allowing the integration of ambient media into classic campaign concepts. The words ambient media first surfaced only a few years ago in the advertising press and the conference rooms of both brand owners and their agencies. For a time, the expression lacked any clear definition, and across Europe there were quite different interpretations. Where outdoor ad experts were rather vague, ambient media became understood as something hip and trendy, but of rather doubtful origin. So big brands, like the well-protected daughters of high sociFIGURE 1

ety, were kept away from what media planners considered to be media of dubious character. At first, only low-budget campaigns used these new, colourful ad opportunities, but their performance soon roused the jealous interest of the big brands. Filling the gap A few years ago, outdoor campaigns moved on from the limited advertising opportunities offered by standard posters and displays. Unorthodox media opportunities, creative no-one-had-everseen-them-befores, joined the relevance set. But why has this happened? Are the usual suspects not good enough to bring the point to the audiences attention any more? Experts agree on some millennial phenomena. 1. Stable advertising budgets are split among more TV channels, radio stations, magazines and so on, than ever before. 2. While brand fetishism is a well-accepted lifestyle, zapping is cult, too. Todays consumers are professional media users. 3. People do not spent their evenings in

UK gross spend on ambient media (million)

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front of the TV any more. They travel more and more to and from work and enjoy more spare time activities like clubbing. Having understood that the target audience prefers to walk to the toilet or the kitchen during commercial breaks, advertisers learned that advertising has to be where the people are. Smart new enterprises were set up to install poster frames in the public lavatories in clubs and bars all round London. Out-of-home communication became the new challenge for creative media planning. Success is proved only by the figures and budgets for out-of-home communication keep growing. In particular, the area of niche media has shown an outstanding performance in terms of growth. With a growth rate of around 45% per annum, ambient outscored any other form of media. New advertising opportunities have been discovered as solutions for many problems of communication, including low budgets and low response to classic campaign tools. The impact of what Concord and Posterlink Ltd. named Ambient Media has changed views on out-of-home communication. Uniting niche media like washroom advertising, free postcards, cab advertising, point of sale media, and so on, it defined a powerful area of advertising opportunity. Unlike classic communication media, it is not in the nature of these new forms of advertising to simply display a brand or a logo, the idea is to fit into the targeted consumers day-to-day environment. Attracting the attention of the audience became the challenge for the creative teams, instead of using the ad break at the movies to disturb and penetrate the audience with ad messages. Ambient media executions have to be sexy to be approved by the target group of todays urban 20s-30s. Presenting commercial messages in the right place at the right time has opened doors for a new level of involvement of the target group, replacing the
World Advertising Research Center 2003

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Kolja Wehleit works as group CEO with the wpmc w&p marketing company GmbH&Co.KG, a German based marketing team which combines the disciplines of strategy, research and communication.


Did you see the campaign?

% 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 with ambient only classic 18 52 82 48 Did not see the campaign Saw the campaign

classic means of one-way communication. Methods of viral marketing where consumers tell consumers about a new product become accessible for commercial communication. Keeping an eye on these new trends in the market, and having done a test here and there is almost mandatory for any serious member of the ad community to be fashionable. Having discovered that ambient media really do work, accountability is now the target for the market. How do you combine ambient and classic media? How much should you spend? What results can you expect? These are core questions that need to be answered in order to find a long-term basis for the position of ambient media in serious campaigns. From a continental viewpoint, the international media scene benefits considerably from the different individual market situations in Europe, for example, the innovative character of the UK ad scene. In a concentrated market situation like Britains, thinking of new ideas and filling in the gaps, seem to be essential to the survival of any creative (media) agency. If we recognise differences in the
World Advertising Research Center 2003

geographic situation of the marketplace, it is easy to understand why campaigns in a rather dispersed consumer market like Germany have to be planned and executed from a different perspective. Being distanced from the actual location of the media requires client and agency to have a precise idea of the likely efficiency and success rate of complementary media concepts before a campaign will be executed. Although progressive innovations are not supported by it, it opens doors for research to evaluate the impact and success of out-of-home/ambient media campaigns on an objective level. In a nationwide pilot study, in conjunction with The German Ambient Media association Media e.V (FAMeV) which is supported by all sides of the media industry the complementary employment of different ambient media formats and classic campaign elements (TV, print and poster) has been examined. Significant increase of campaign efficiency The survey was conducted in Germany in co-operation with a premium food brand. On the classic side, blanket poster bookings, PR (including dialogue-marketing instruments), radio and heavy TV were employed. In selected areas, the campaign was joined by street furniture and indoor formats. Free postcards were selected for an ambient approach to the relevant audience (2030 year olds). Edgar Medien AG, the market leader for free cards, and the German division of the international Boomerang group, a free-card specialist in the field of cinemas and universities, initiated the research project. The specialist and outdoor partners joined in. Edgar as well as Boomerang are members of the German Ambient Media association (FAM e.V.). The research was executed by w&p marketing. The main objectives were to assess: the general awareness of the (classic) campaign (copy test/Brand awareness) the judgment of the target audience on

the actual campaign (likes/dislikes) the judgment of the target audience on the product (likes/dislikes). It was not surprising for our team to find a higher level of campaign awareness in those areas where classic and ambient media were combined. In areas of complementary media employment, 52% of the target group confirmed having seen the (classic) campaign. In areas where the message was distributed only through classic channels, this figure was only 18%. This significant difference in brand awareness already shows ambient media as a winner, if increase of efficiency is the issue. The w&p marketing team was rather surprised by the results when we moved on from quantitative research to look at the qualitative aspects of campaign tracking. Asked if they liked the idea of the classic campaign, those in the areas where ambient media were employed scored significantly higher. First thoughts on reasons for these differences pinpointed that ambient media were considered to entertain the audience. As they fit into the audiences

Did you like the campaign?

% 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 with ambient only classic 36 22 84 78 Did not like the campaign Liked the campaign

May 2003

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sphere of living, the advertising message was entertaining the target group rather than disturbing other spare-time activities, like a TV commercial. However, this only explained general feelings of like or dislike towards the campaign. Of course, some indication of general brand acceptance could be drawn from this, but it seemed rather unlikely that views on the product itself would exhibit any major differences. Answers to the questions Do you like the product? as a personal statement, and Is it a good product? as a rather objective statement that could serve as advice to other consumers, proved our first guesses wrong. In areas with ambient media, 12% more of the interviewed consumers said they liked the product. The audience appeared more careful with more objective statements. However, more than double gave a positive response in those areas where ambient media were used. Analysis For a start, we found out that advertising works! These examples show that people tend to have a higher (overall) awareness of brands and campaigns that are (co-)positioned in their sphere of living, but that they also develop a better opinion of products that are presented on an ambient media level. A significant transfer of image/sympaFIGURE 4


Is it a good product?
% 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 9 with ambient 4 only classic 81 96 No it is not/no answer Yes it is a good product

dividends. The audience responds with a higher degree of sympathy and acceptance and hopefully a significant uplift in sales, too. Conclusion Observing the increased awareness as well as the uplift of positive acceptance of a product within the relevant target group indicates that ambient media are more than just another channel to deliver the message to the audience. Making the connection between an accountable increase in quantitative aspects of mass communication and the significant qualitative aspect of what the audience thinks of the product indicates that ambient media are a powerful tool to: 1. draw more attention to a classic campaign, and 2. serve as a strategic device of brand communication. Accordingly, CPT is not an applicable criterion to judge and measure the relevance of ambient media for campaign ideas. On a practical level, campaign managers should move beyond spending left-over fragments of campaign budgets on niche media, to give a sexy appeal to a rather standard campaign design. Recognising the qualitative aspects of ambient media leads to their strategic employment within the overall campaign design. A competent design of complementary out-of-home campaigns can be built around the ambient media element of a campaign. Ambient media are as close to the audience as anything can get. The message they deliver to the audience is well heard. It is different from classic means of mass communication: no walk to the kitchen, no switch of channel interferes with the media directors intention. Having found once a positive (ambient) access to the target audience means that people are more likely to pay attention to the brand on other relevant channels of communication. To communicate eye-to-eye, it is obviously crucial to be aware of the profile and lifestyle of the target audience. For successful ambient media planning, a high degree of involvement of the campaign manager with the audience lifestyle is a key for success.
World Advertising Research Center 2003

Do you like the product?

% 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 with ambient only classic 93 81 Did not like the product Liked the product 7 19

thy and confidence (is it a good ) can be observed. After a number of in-depth target group interviews, we can now add a psychological issue to the consideration of ambient media. Recognising that ambient media are a strategic aspect of campaign design as well as a means of mass communication, we see target group affinity as a vital factor. Employing ambient media properly should involve being on an eye-to-eye level with the audience. But the role of ambient media is not only to position the message correctly among the targeted audience. To find the right approach for the audience is another important task. Since any media channel influences the reception of the messages it carries, we find ambient media likely to be a sympathetic and accepted source of commercial information. It is up to the audience to select a free card from the rack. It is for them to choose the message. This differs from usual procedures of mass communication, where displaying the message always appears to be an aggressive act of penetrating the target group. It requires more creativity to motivate the targeted audience to select the message through ambient media. You have to use the right approach, entertain, amuse and finally give something to the target group in return for their attention. This rather respectful behaviour by the advertiser towards the target group pays

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