The more advertising there is, though, the more brands need to think outside of the box if they want to stand out from the crowd. Traditionally, advertising has either been visual or aural but in the last year leading outdoor advertising company, JC Decaux, has been making waves with their multi-sensory campaigns that allow you to smell, taste and touch adverts.
Interestingly, ‘smell-vertising’ is not that new a phenomenon. Not only in more simplistic forms, perfume in magazines being a prime example, but in San Francsico in 2006, scented strips of freshly baked cookies were placed in bus shelters for a milk campaign. This only lasted a day, however, after concerns were raised that the chemicals being emitted could cause allergic reactions.
It is like a fine mist because obviously you don’t want to upset anyone by drenching them
The McCain frozen baked potato campaign launched in the winter months of this year was rather more successful. The advert, installed in bus shelters around ten locations in the UK, including Manchester, York and London, involved a 3D fibreglass potato that would heat up at the press of a button and emit the smell of a freshly baked potato.
In order to produce the smell, Sam Bird, Director of Production and Creative Solutions at JC Decaux says, “We had a little nozzle at the top of the unit and when you press a button to dispense a voucher, the scent came out at the same time. It is like a fine mist because obviously you don’t want to upset anyone by drenching them or marking their clothes in anyway. It is all water based, not alcohol based.”
They worked for three months with a scent laboratory to create the perfect baked potato smell. Bird says, “That particular scent took time as it is quite a unique smell to create. It is not something that anyone already had. McCain really liked what we came up with and they have now taken ownership of that scent.”
When it is a smell that is more conventional, there is a high chance that an artificial version will have already been created but with the more esoteric scents a process of trial and error takes place to find the perfect smell.
JC Decaux also used smell in their Mr Kipling cake campaign. Again, creating a precise cake smell took experimentation in the scent labs. Bird says, “There are an awful lot of off the shelf, standard scents you can buy, like strawberry or banana and so forth but when it is something a little bit unique liked a cake, it is a case of trialling different scents.”
Of course, the most important sense when it comes to advertising food products is taste and for the Kipling campaign, when you pressed the button, as well as the smell being released, a free cake was also dispensed at the bottom.
People were able to change the features of the car. For example, you could change its colour and reconfigure the seating and boot space
It is the interactive nature of these campaigns that has engaged people, perhaps because of the sheer novelty of them. Outside of food, JC Decaux has also worked with other brands on progressive ad campaigns to hook people in. Take for example the augmented reality campaign they did for Ford, which allowed people to change the way the car looked on touch screens.
Bird says, “People were able to change the features of the car. For example, you could change its colour and reconfigure the seating and boot space.”
So, have we gone as far as we can go in advertising, or is this just the beginning of a far more sophisticated era as brands desperately vie with each other to grab our attention? Who knows, maybe the next the step in advertising is to invade your dreams – at least you can pinch yourself to wake up.