Recently, I've been looking at some prominent trends in marketing. I've explored the power of partnerships and the increasing use of 'occasion marketing' strategies. This week I turn my attention to the world of media and note the rise of ambient.

But what exactly is ambient media? One definition offered by the Chartered Institute of Marketing points out that ambient was originally known as ‘fringe media’, but now it consists of “communications platforms that surround us in everyday life - from petrol pump advertising to advertising projected onto buildings to advertising on theatre tickets, cricket pitches or even pay slips”.

On the one hand ambient media is driven by innovative new technology yet some strategies also adopt a more back to basics approach. Ambient is usually situated in the out of home environment and often goes hand-in-hand with stunt marketing strategies, so it can be a useful way to raise awareness and generate free PR/earned media. Here are a selection of campaigns featuring interesting uses of ambient that stood out for me in 2014.

The New Museum, New York's only contemporary arts museum, needed to increase visitor numbers which had been in decline. Reaching out to ‘mainstream creatives’ aged 21-39, the museum created a week-long ‘time capsule’ campaign that gave New Yorkers a sample of what life was like in 1993. Ambient/outdoor media led the campaign - the humble outdoor pay phone became the media channel of choice. 5000 Manhattan pay phones were turned into ‘time machines’, delivering hundreds of audio stories of life in NYC in 1993. Attendance spiked 31% during the campaign and the strategy achieved 210 million earned media impressions.

Another New York based campaign, Cole Haan, a US shoe retailer, developed a repositioning campaign to reach fashion conscious 24-45 year olds in New York City. Innovative use of outdoor and ambient media involved placing adverts on storefront rolling gates. The brand collaborated with New York drag queens who wore the shoes during the city’s fashion week, attracting the attention of the young and hip audience it wanted to reach. Sales, in-store traffic and social media engagement rates all increased above target.

Elsewhere in the US, Temple University needed a new approach to promote the institution and to recruit new students. Shunning traditional marketing vehicles, the strategy put existing students and alumni at the heart of the campaign. This advocacy led crowd-sourced campaign emphasised students and teachers’ pride in the institution and highlighted the benefits of education. The media strategy utilised a range of social platforms while state of-the-art projection technology allowed the university to shine its message on buildings and landmarks across the city.

Another brand making the most of a city’s outdoor space is Nike, the sportswear brand. With its market share in decline in Indonesia, the sportswear brand needed to promote its Just Do It philosophy, create relevance, generate buzz and reinforce its innovation credentials among young people. So it hosted the Nike WeRun 10 km running event which highlighted the opportunities to run in Jakarta and identified running areas that were underutilised. Targeting influencers, the streets and buildings of Jakarta were the advertising mediums of choice. With no traditional media spend, Nike created one of the most successful campaigns in Indonesia to date and had record attendance at the WeRun 10km race.

Meanwhile, WWF-Traffic China, literally took to the streets to encourage the China State Forestry Administration to take stronger action against illegal wildlife trade. Every eight minutes, a wildlife species becomes extinct, and illegal wildlife trade is one of the main causes. Instead of using traditional media channels, WWF used pavements to paint images of endangered animals. But this was no ordinary paint - the use of specialised water meant the images evaporated after eight minutes, and was gone forever, thus driving home the sense of irreplaceable loss. The campaign achieved its key objective of attracting the attention of the China State Forestry Administration and moving it to table stronger action measures against the illegal wildlife trade in its 2014 National Agenda. Very clever.

British Airways, the UK airline, responded to the predicted mass exodus from the UK during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by adopting a bold, counterintuitive (but ultimately successful) strategy. At first glance, the “Don’t Fly. Support Team GB” tactic could be seen as commercial suicide. But, shrewdly, the campaign ran during a period of minimal risk to the business. A multimedia campaign included a film of a Boeing 777 not flying, but taxiing through London to Stratford (the Olympic Park) while those touching down at Heathrow airport were welcomed by a huge painting on a field of Jessica Ennis, the Heptathlon Champion, with the message “welcome to our turf”.

Innovative technology was at the heart of this campaign for Women’s Aid, the UK charity that provides support to victims of domestic abuse. During the course of a 65 second cinema spot two scenarios simultaneously play out. Using 3D glasses, through one eye the viewer watches a familiar story of a woman preparing dinner. Through the other they see exactly the same scene but with one crucial difference: the harrowing presence of an abusive partner. This confronted the viewer with two different realities - depending on which eye they chose to view the story in. Quite literally provoking the thought: would you turn a blind eye?

Cebu Pacific Air, a low-cost Filipino airline, used a form of stunt marketing to encourage Hong Kong leisure travellers to visit the Philippines, during the HK monsoon season. With only a small marketing budget Cebu Pacific Air used an innovative liquid-repelling spray to place invisible advertisements in the busiest spots across Hong Kong and, when the rain fell, ads with an embedded QR code were revealed, leading people to a mobile booking engine that offered them special deals on flight tickets. The communication achieved its goals and, in the first month of storms alone, sales through the online booking site grew 37% month on month.

Paddy Power, the Irish bookmaker, repositioned as a brand that would participate in the everyday culture that surrounds sport, a stance considered more engaging than a mere ‘gambling’ brand. Facebook and Twitter became the lifeblood of the ‘We Hear You”’ strategy with support from outdoor and ambient media, including ‘skyvertising’. This mischievous campaign helped the brand transcend category norms.

EMC, a provider of IT storage hardware solutions, took a highly personalised approach to engage with the B2B sector in India. To showcase its expertise credentials to time-poor IT decision makers it brought the experience of its world-class EMC briefing centre to its customers’ and prospects’ doors via a state-of-the-art luxury business lounge on wheels. The EMC Transformation Coach enabled a senior EMC solutions team to present custom solutions, address business-critical pain points and provide agile solutions. The coach also served as a good platform for networking with other CIOs and CTOs. By creating value and addressing the time-crunch challenges involved in business networking, this state-of-the-art mobile lounge facilitated improved consumer reach and impressive growth in revenue from the relationship accounts targeted.

Lastly, Hellmann’s, the mayonnaise brand demonstrated how a brand can build usage frequency by providing inspiration for recipes. Partnerships with retailers in Brazil, enabled the brand to provide shoppers with recipe suggestions which were supplied via a new advertising medium: the humble till receipt.

Warc subscribers can find out more about ambient media and its naughty cousin stunt marketing on