Monday, March 10, 2008

Expecting the Unexpected from South Carolina

If you are sitting in front of the TV (and apparently multi-tasking since you're also reading this blog), you know something is about to happen: Within a few minutes, the show will break and ads will appear.

The ads will probably be ones you've seen before. And even if you haven't, you'll already be familiar with them--some music, a voice over, some beauty shots of the product, and a call to action. Even if the ad is new--in fact, even if the product is new--you'll have seen the ad before. Or at least you'll have expected to, which is why you won't pay attention.

TV ads definitely have their place; even though you don't think you pay attention, plenty of studies show you do (although I suspect with each passing year, these studies get more dated, impacted by the penetration of DVRs, shifting demographics, and fractured media). TV ads are great for targeting consumers, for conveying emotion, and for keeping a brand top of mind.

But what if you want to really get consumer's attention? Make them think about something? Violate their expectations and overcome consumers' natural and growing inattentiveness to advertising?

That's where Experiential Marketing (XM) enters the picture. And here is a good example of some XM that reaches consumers in their daily lives, when they least expect it. It's impossible to ignore and demands attention, but most importantly, it forces viewers to think and feel, not merely see.

The South Carolina Parks Recreation & Tourism department used the stairways and floors of four busy Chicago parking garages to get folks to think about and feel how nice it would be to get away from the city's endless winter. Each garage was wrapped with warm, inviting, and surprisingly realistic messaging telling residents that it’s "Time to thaw." Escalators led commuters to a bikini-clad woman sunbathing on a beach; garage pillars morphed into golf tees; bathroom hand dryers read, "press button for warm South Carolina breezes"; and stairways were turned into stacks of luggage.

Props to Rawle Murdy, which handled the media buy for this eye- and attention-catching month-long campaign. Results will probably not be shared, but it would be interesting to see if this campaign--which I'm sure cost a fraction of a fraction of a TV campaign--increases passenger load between Chicago and South Carolina.

Read more at Media Creativity.

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