Guerrilla Marketing Without the Headache
By David W. Dunlap
Could it be? Is it possible that City Room’s battler against guerrilla marketing — the man who risked physical injury, lost an S.L.R. camera and incurred the wrath of the blogosphere when he went up against a poster crew last year — has finally found a campaign that he doesn’t really mind? Or, at least, doesn’t hate?
It could be. Tipped off last week by my colleague Michael Cooper, I checked out a Tylenol PM ad being projected after dark as a wall mural at Eighth Avenue and 31st Street. And, frankly, it wasn’t so bad. In fact, if you could hear your own thoughts over the roar of the portable generator needed to run the projector, it was a bit amusing.
The premise is, “Your daily choices can affect how you sleep at night.” Six apartment windows are projected on to a blank wall. Three windows are dark. (Their occupants made the right choices.) But the lights are on in three windows whose occupants have been less smart. In a minute, it becomes clear that the ad is not static. A coffee drinker paces by one window, while a cat can be seen jumping on and off a bed in another, and a television watcher waves her remote control in the third.
The ad has several things going for it:
- It observes the scale of its surroundings. It doesn’t involve an impossibly oversize logo or human image. Its make-believe windows are the size and in the locations you would expect to find real windows.
- It uses a blank wall. It doesn’t cover real windows or columns or doorways or other architectural features. In other words, it takes nothing away from the environment.
- It appears in a commercial district. I don’t think there are any apartment dwellers who would have to look out at this ad — or listen to the generator — while they were trying to sleep.
- It is understated, as such things go. The main show is the animated display. The connection of these little vignettes to Tylenol is pretty oblique. And the logo, while unmistakable, is subdued.
- It exploits technology to engage passers-by, rather than hit them over the heads. That’s clever enough to earn a post in City Room, which amounts to free publicity.
The campaign is the work of the Deutsch advertising agency and was produced by City Eventions and the ON Media Group. Richard McDermott, the founder and president of ON Media Group, said the campaign ran simultaneously in Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco, and will return to New York this month.We’ll see how the next encounter goes. On its Web site, ON urges advertisers to “turn the streets into your own gallery” with wall murals; in other words, to appropriate the public sphere for private marketing ends. And it offers products like adhesive pavement advertising (illegal in New York City) and chalk stencil advertising, which is — for all intents and purposes — corporate graffiti. There may yet be headaches in store.