Are advertisements getting smarter?

The paradigm has shifted again. The proliferation of mobile technology and the widespread usage of social networking have redefined human communication. We are not only connected 24/7 but are also constantly looking for something new and different. When we get it, we act quickly. If we don’t, then we move along without any hesitation.

  • Instant Gratification

  • Shortening Attention Spans

  • Nothing Seems to Stick

are the code words for modern advertising.

“I Like It On…”

Millions of women participated in online promotion to raise awareness for breast cancer was initiated on Facebook and went viral. It relied on the use of a recurrent meme, and the campaign—ultimately dubbed I Like It On…—saw thousands of women updating their statuses to read something along the lines of “I like it on the floor,” or “I like it on the table,” or “I like it in the kitchen,” and so on. But the statuses weren’t just referring to unique places women like to “make whoopee.” Rather, they were referencing where they prefer to leave their purses. The campaign ultimately relied on implication to generate buzz. It was talked about, it was debated, it was a tad bit controversial (entrusting its effectiveness to sexual connotation rather than facts about the cause), but for all intents and purposes, it was a marketing success!

3D Billboards

Several of the newest billboard ads popping up in the U.S. and abroad are interesting as well. The effort is obviously to use more invasive design strategies in order to get passersby to pay more attention. Paramount Pictures recently promoted the critically-acclaimed cinematic masterpiece Jackass 3D by putting up “3D billboards” in select cities. Large ramps were set up adjacent to road-side billboard signs, plastered to which were mannequin motorcyclists meant to look as if they had crashed head-on into the billboard and were stuck there. A billboard with a little more depth and an interactive feel is certainly a better idea than a flat, static advertisement.


This nifty roadside ad actually pumps a beef scent into the air around lunchtime and in the early evening just to get drivers hungry. That’s right, “smellvertising” is here!

Scent marketing can take many shapes as well as smells. There are, obviously, perfume samples in magazines. And there are the pleasant odors that retailers diffuse throughout their shops—perhaps jasmine in fine shoe store or cookies in a holiday depot. (Anyone who’s stepped foot in an Abercrombie & Fitch should know what it’s like to walk into a brick wall of cologne.) A Brooklyn grocery store made news last year for filling aisles with artificial smells of grapefruit and rosemary focaccia from mounted “scent machines.” All are attempts to reach wallets through nostrils.

There is potential for this angle to backfire in the spud campaign. Take the so-called Proustian effect—named for writer Marcel Proust—which refers to the involuntary link between details like scent and long-term memories. After experiencing the McCain ad, consumers could walk past the potatoes in the freezer aisle and have their minds filled with thoughts of bus stops, from here to evermore.

Unlikely psychological side effects aside, there is much more potential for success. Unique advertising campaigns come with the bonus of free press.

This potato campaign may be a boon for the food company, but it may also be a harbinger of the brave, new-fangled, smelly world to come.

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