Ambient Packaging: Branding the World One Pizza Box at a Time

  • by February 28, 2005
Mixing domestic fodder with suburban angst has become a dream come true for advertisers with abc's "Desperate Housewives." A recent scene in which Felicity Huffman's character Lynnette Scavo impresses her husband's clients by pitching the use of dry cleaning bags to sell advertising was something of a surprise to Ambient Planet, the New-York based non-traditional media company.

Ambient Planet specializes in connecting consumers with brands in unexpected ways. But, neither Ambient Planet nor abc's media buying agency Outdoor Media Group expected dry cleaning bags, a marketing tool that it used to promote the show in the weeks leading up to its debut, to be written into an actual episode.

Ambient advertising, a term that is still bandied about more in Europe and Asia, according to Ambient Planet's president and co-founder Perry Kirk-Cerchio, pops up in places where consumers are least likely to expect it, from pizza boxes to nail salons.

The company, which is owned by Media Initiatives Group in London, believes the proliferation of competition and the emergence of new technologies increase the need for a media provider that's bold and versatile.

Ambient media carries some similarities to guerrilla marketing, but, says Kirk-Cerchio, "Ambient media is still building upon curiosity and uniqueness, but building long-term revenue strengths."

The tag line for "Desperate Housewives," "Everybody has some dirty laundry," naturally lent itself to Ambient Planet's most popular product. The company also uses nail salons and pizza boxes, as well as commuter ferries, hotel keys, newspaper bags, food court tables, and casino slot tickets to promote clients including Bank of America, Breast Cancer Foundation, Continental Airlines, Unilever, and

"It's almost unbelievable how much publicity we've had by that campaign," says Kirk-Cerchio of "Desperate Housewives." As a result, Ambient Planet's entertainment client list is on the rise. The agency has a new contract with Paramount and was in discussions with Fox at press time. According to the company, which was founded in December of 2000, ambient media can slash the cost of traditional outdoor advertising in half.

As of this month, Ambient Planet has installed nearly 3,000 interior poster billboards in beauty salons and barbershops around the country. UPN is buying 800 of them for the month of March to advertise the launch of one of the network's shows.

In these venues, advertisers can capitalize on reaching a captive audience, says Kirk-Cerchio. "There are still many other opportunities out there [for product placement]," she says, but is careful when mulling new ideas to consider the longevity of the medium.

Could consumers who are catching on to ambient advertising get frustrated with it and decide against frequenting particular salons or ordering from pizza parlors whose boxes contain advertising?

"I don't think anything we do is offensive," says Kirk-Cerchio. "We provide value, and we affect consumers on a non-intrusive, emotional level." And, she also notes, the ambient products are offered at heavily discounted prices or free to venues, which can save consumers money. Jennifer Coleman

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