Shaping Youth Through Ambient Advertising

bowlingteeth.jpgAdvertising’s ubiquitous presence CAN be amusing sometimes.

You’ve gotta admit, this use presenting “teeth as bowling pins” for a European dental insurance company did a creative job of media immersion via bowling alley. (not sure that’s the right target market, but that’s another story)

Aside from the rather violent concept of kids knocking out someone’s teeth, or seniors sadly gumming taters sans dentures, it’s about implants, dental care and what can happen if you DON’T take care of that smile. Still, it’s yet another example of advertising’s pervasiveness smack dab in our face.

Why is it that some ambient advertising seems harmless (or even downright entertaining) and some feels destructive and commercialized beyond words? Personally, my tolerance level swings like a metronome.

Some days ambient ads get a slight smirk, other days I’ve HAD it with the invasiveness and want to pull my hair out saying, “just leave me alone!” I’ve noticed if youth is impacted in any way, I tend to have a particularly snarly response.

Today happens to be the opening of that nightmarish movie, Captivity which had its gruesome signage recalled. (but not before stunned kids had the violent imagery seared into their brains with horrifically disturbing visuals)

I thought about this a lot when I saw the bowling ad this morning, wondering why it didn’t repel me in the same way, since it too has a ‘violent’ message that could leak into kids’ psyches I suppose. I turned to Becky Carroll’s branding blog, “Customers Rock!” which does a great job of differentiating the impact of ambient advertising in this post by taking a ‘customer-centric’ view.

Becky said, “The intent of my post was to get people thinking about how ambient campaigns affect not only prospects but also current customers. They can either reinforce brand preference or damage it…”

“There are many fun, ethical ways this can be done to impact consumer opinion in the positive…Some ambient marketing is fun, and my teenage son enjoyed looking at some of these examples.”

She calls attention to all kinds of wacky guerilla marketing endeavors with balanced pro and con views. She highlights one about beachcombing, when giant shells are used to promo a seafood restaurant.

Some say it’s ‘fun’ others say it’s ‘littering & intrusive’…

What would kids say?

Blink to your family on vacation.

Would this be a scavenger hunt with kids scrambling to open the next shell or a roll of the eyes with “we can’t escape 24/7 marketing ANYwhere, not even on a beach in Mumbai, India!”

Like most of these media and marketing issues, it all depends on the values, preferences, and saturation threshold of the individual family.

Becky is one of many “responsible marketers”. (I know some of you find that phrase oxymoronic) Nevertheless, as media producers, we ALL have a role here, as marketing is NOT going away…Shaping Youth is all about accountability, responsibility, and deconstruction of these media and marketing messages.

She voiced, “One of the areas that bothers me about ambient marketing is the attitude of some marketers to “ask forgiveness rather than ask permission”. Again, this can ultimately have a negative impact on current (and future) customers, including our youth.”

Yep. That’s sure part of it.

As is pervasiveness. As is ‘shock appeal.’ As is media coverage.

What do YOU think of ambient advertising that impacts kids? Have your tweens, teens, or wee ones noticed (mentioned?) any signage, pop-ups, or randomly ‘captive’ ad exposure?

What about in-flight movies where kids are literally strapped in their seats and exposed to whatever’s up on the screen?

Whether it’s a lacy-thonged Victoria’s Secret mannequin in a chair-straddling window display, or a handy JetBlue shut-eye kit passed out on red-eye (we found that tie-in to be refreshingly targeted and ‘blissful’) ambient marketing messages are all around us, and kids are absorbing them for better or for worse.

Send us your picks and pans along these lines, and we’ll do a follow up…

What kinds of ambient ads and behavioral cues are you MOST concerned about with your kids? What are some positive ambient messages, like the yellow “LiveStrong” bands? Think on it. Ping us! And have a great weekend.

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