Innovative advertising spaces

"Advertising, as you know it, is dead," wrote Sergio Zyman, a former Coca-Cola executive in his book The End of Advertising As We Know It. ((page 1, published in 2002)) Most people switch their brains off when bombarded with useless ads that do not give anything valuable to them. Well, at least I do, especially when I receive endless direct mailing letters and leaflets that clog up my mailbox every day (See my post Winnie the Pooh and Responsible Marketing).

But sometimes, advertising can be innovative, not only in terms of content, but also where it appears. Here's a list of innovative advertising spaces and mediums that I have put together for you:

Eco-friendly paper hangers

hangers facingThe Smart Hanger, an eco-friendly startup from Canada that I featured in a Funky Brand Interview back in August, provides an innovative space for advertisers who display their messages on hangers made from recycled paper. Those who view the ads, actually perceive them in a positive way, since the Hanger helps solve a problem of landfill waste.

Rental bikes

Villo bike in Brussels

This is a photo of a Villo city rental bike in Brussels, featuring an ad by a hosiery manufacturer, DIM.  I think DIM did a pretty good job here selecting the bike as an advertising medium to promote their stockings. I can imagine many female bikers would hesitate to rent a bike in the fear of ruining their stockings, and DIM proposes to solve that issue. (The fact that scarce biking paths in Brussels make this city ill-adapted for this activity is more important than stockings, but this is a whole different issue).

404 error pages on web sites

Murphy's beer (a brand that belongs to the Heineken group) ran a Murphy's Law (( Murphy's law is, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."))  ad campain by placing ads on 404 error pages of the Dutch portal Planet Internet back in 2000. I think that the ad space itself is rather innovative, though I doubt this kind of a campaign would trigger a lot of associations between the beer and Murphy's law, even when somebody lands on a "wrong" page.

Human body

Image source:

I am listing this "medium" here as it's quite unusual,  but it's also pretty controversial. In fact, several companies have made attempts to link advertisers with those people who're willing to tattoo ads on their body. However, it seems that these companies didn't live too long. For instance, Body Billboardz, a social network of people willing to tattoo ads, doesn't seem to exist any more. Something called Handvertising USA probably went bust as well.

I can imagine that there would be many volunteers willing to provide "ad space" on their bodies, but the other side of the market -- advertisers -- probably wouldn't want to risk their reputation by "placing" tattoo ads on people.

Body art is a whole different matter, and body painting has been used by advertisers to create artistic effects as the one on the left. Remember that Paris Hilton wore nothing but a thick layer of golden paint to launch Prosecco Rich?

If you have more examples of innovative ad spaces, please comment! :)

See another example in this post.


Italians, Paris Hilton and Prosecco

This post discusses the D.O.C.G. quality assurance label used for Italian wines, and discusses whether it will have repercussions for the Paris Hilton Rich Prosecco brand.

Inertia of family-owned businesses: the Belgian distillery Filliers

geneverToday I will talk about family-owned businesses and challenges they face in turning their products or services into funky brands.

Think of this kind of company structure: a mother or father is a CEO, and all the top management consists of offspring, cousins, aunts, uncles and other “extended family” members. Occasionally, they let outsiders in, and allow them to manage their businesses, but this doesn’t happen too often.

Many family-owned companies never succeed in achieving critical mass, lose touch with modern trends, fail to reinvent themselves and keep afloat the ever-changing customer demands. Sometimes, family-owned business produce high-quality products, but fail to exploit its potential to the maximum simply because they lack the necessary skills within the family team.

Here is an example of a brand you might or might not have heard about. Filliers, a distillery near Ghent (Belgium), produces genever, an fillierslogoalcoholic beverage made by distilling maltwine and adding some herbs, such as juniper berry. Think gin, but with some added zest.

Funky gin.

Filliers has a big potential to become a great and innovative brand, but seems to be somewhat trapped in its century-long traditional thinking.

I had a chance to visit Filliers as part of a local business networking group whose members went to the distillery mostly out of recreational purposes. My own interest was mostly triggered by a bottle of sweet currant Filliers brew sitting in my fridge. A nice flavor, 20% alcohol volume content, and quite an unattractive bottle made me think that perhaps Filliers could have some potential on the alcoholic beverage market, if re-branded, re-bottled, and modernized.


First, we were shown a promotional video about the company. The two things were repeated again and again: technological advances allowing to distill Filliers beverages in the best way possible, and traditional values of the family business, which dates back to 1880.

At the end, there was a demonstration of the current range of products. Unfortunately, nothing was mentioned about Filliers's customers.

Craftsmanship and tradition are certainly important in the business of producing genever – no wonder that genever produced by Filliers is quite good. But who buys these products because of their traditional manufacturing techniques?

The old-fashioned look and feel of Filliers bottles probably does have some appeal to Baby Boomers. I am not sure though that many of the sweet and creamy flavors (passion fruit, for instance) would attract a 60-something guy in a local pub.


And it's a pity – the spirits markets in Europe (including Eastern Europe) as well as the US are thirsty for some innovative brands.

An example of how a traditional beverage can stand out and be different is the new brand launched by Paris Hilton: PARIS HILTON RICH PROSECCO. Who would ever think of packaging bubbly into cans?



Simply superb, Paris, great product (I've tasted it) and great ads! Read more about Prosecco Rich here.

Filliers should open up its family business to a creative team of “outsiders” with some solid business background and intuition for marketing. Given the overall good quality of the Filliers liquors, I can imagine a zillion ways of identifying new markets, creating a totally different product range and packaging. There is definitely a lucrative niche in the market to make it possible. I have a lot of ideas about how Filliers could reinvent itself, so if it (or a friendly LBO firm) is listening, get in touch!