How Consumers Perceive Brands Via Ambient Advertising?

Luxton and Drummond (2000) define ambient media as the “placement of advertising in unusual and unexpected places (location) often with unconventional methods (execution) and being first or only ad execution to do so (temporal).

These ambient advertising has always given me joy and surprise.



These ambient ads can surprise, entertain or even shock us at first glance because they always appear where we never expect they would. But the most amazing thing is how those simple, yet clever and powerful ideas perfectly evoke strong sense of brand identity and implicitly communicate the brand message.

In a study about how ambient advertising affects consumer’s perception, Rosengren, Modig and Dahle´n (2015) argue that when thinking of advertising in terms of an exchange of value, consumers tend to believe that ambient ads are a sign that brand cares about them. It is because ambient ad requires more effort to think out a way to fit advertising into consumer environment and to make it somewhat useful for the consumers’ activities. Unlike traditional ads which are perceived as a mere stunt to catch consumers’ attention, brands using ambient ads show that they are willing to dedicate extra effort to enhancing advertising value for consumers.

In another study about ambient ads and their surprise effect, Hutter and Hoffmann (2014) affirms that the “surprise” effect deriving from ambient ads can provoke positive feelings about the brand which traditional ads can never do, and actually foster real purchases. By examining how consumers react with specific traditional ads and ambient ads, the authors conclude that while traditional ads evoke surprise only within the ad content (e.g., text or image elements that are unexpected), audiences of ambient ads enjoy greater surprise elicited by the unexpected effects of ad design and placement. They are also surprised while figuring out how the ad placement fits to the ad’s idea. These additive surprises positively impact consumers’ perception of the brand and actually increase sales figures.

However, it is also essential to consider cultural elements when implementing ambient ads. Let’s have a look at this example:


Although many people found it exciting to join Nando’s event, there are negative comments like “I’ll never have Nando’s again after this”; or “This is, apart from totally fake, quite stupid”; or “That reeks of effort”.

In a study about the effects of ambient ads in cross-cultural environment, Valenzuela, Mellers, and Strebel (2010) indicate that individuals with different cultural backgrounds (e.g Westerners and East Asians) might have different attitudes toward surprising ambient ads.

Ambient ads can also turn out to be disasters if advertisers don’t know how to use the medium effectively. This happened with Snapple in 2005 when it attempted to exhibit the world’s largest popsicle in New York’s Times Square. Unfortunately, the frozen Snapple juice began to melt, flooding parts of downtown Manhattan.  An epic failure!


In my opinion, ambient ads is always a smart strategy to make our ads brilliant from the clutter of ordinaries. What important thing is advertisers need to think from consumers’ perspective and take all the risks into consideration to avoid negative results for our ambient advertising campaign.


Hutter, K., & Hoffmann, S. (2014). Surprise, surprise. ambient media as promotion tool for retailers. Journal of Retailing, 90(1), 93-110.

Rosengren, S., Modig, E., & Dahlén, M. (2015). The value of ambient communication from a consumer perspective. Journal Of Marketing Communications21(1), 20-32.

Valenzuela, Ana, Barbara A. Mellers and Judi Strebel (2010), “Pleasurable Surprises: A Cross-Cultural Study of Consumer Responses to Unexpected Incentives,” Journal of Consumer Research, 36 (5), 792–805.


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