Leave it to New York to have crude concrete. A decade ago, Big Apple walkways had the audacity to cast aspersions on pedestrians' undergarments when lingerie maker Bamboo Lingerie stamped sidewalks with the phrase, "From here, it looks like you could use some new underwear." Such bold marketing tactics seem almost genteel now, when every waking moment is saturated in sales messages. Even the most, um, delicate of human experiences are now fair game. In 1999, Internet retailer Half.com placed ads in Penn Station urinals, and media company Captive View has plans to install 1,000 "viewrinal" screens in restrooms throughout the UK.
The human body, long an insignia-sporting shill for various retailers, continues to be quite the billboard source. Temporary tattoo manufacturer Print Expressions will customize 500 tattoos with your company logo for just $89.50. Think tattoos won't make enough of a statement? Maybe you should buy a spaceship. Pizza Hut reportedly paid $1 million to put its logo on the side of a rocket en route to the International Space Station. Not to be one-upped, Radio Shack is in negotiations to have its logo displayed to the entire world-on the moon, just a stone's throw from the Sea of Tranquillity.
With advertising venues multiplying like bunnies, will consumers be able to absorb it all, or will their brains go on strike? Kathleen S. Micken, associate marketing professor at the Gabelli School of Business at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, cautions that if consumers face too much information, they may shut down-or worse. People who believe that not every little bit of our lives should be sponsored by some corporate entity will have a negative response to such ads, Micken says.
Some novel ad venues do make sense, like ads on grocery carts and baggage claim carousels. A captive and receptive audience is a beautiful thing, and thinking beyond normal marketing parameters can have major benefits. "If an ad that shows up in an unexpected venue is entertaining or witty and fits with the setting," says Micken, "it may engender an even more positive response."