This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. See our privacy statement
World Wide Words logo

Ambient advertising

Pronounced /ˈæmbɪənt ˈædvəˌtaɪzɪŋ/Help with IPA

This phrase started to appear in British media jargon in the early 1990s, but now seems to be firmly established as a standard term within the advertising industry.

It refers to almost any advertising that occurs in some non-standard medium outside the home. Examples are messages on the backs of car park receipts and at the bottom of golf holes, on hanging straps in railway carriages, on the handles of supermarket trolleys, and on the sides of egg cartons (some clever souls have exploited modern printing technology to put advertising messages on the eggs themselves). It also includes such techniques as projecting huge images on the sides of buildings, or slogans on the gas bags of hot air balloons.

The general term for the objects that carry the advertising messages is ambient media; someone using the technique may be called an ambient advertiser. The phrase was presumably coined during the peak of popularity of ambient music, a genre with electronic textures that create a mood or atmosphere. As a result of such coinages, the standard meaning of ambient, relating to something that is in the immediate environment, is becoming slightly less precise.

Outdoor advertising covers three main heads — roadside, transport and ambient. ... The final slice is often referred to as ambient advertising — a catch-all covering everything from sandwich men to hot-air balloons.

Independent, 30 Apr. 1996.

The genuine impact of ambient media is difficult to measure as it often takes TV and press coverage to attract wider public attention to it.

Sunday Business, Aug. 1998

Page created 5 Sep. 1998

Support World Wide Words.

Donate by selecting your currency and clicking the button.


Buy anything from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you.

Buy from Amazon UK Buy from Amazon USA

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved. See the copyright page for notes about linking to and reusing this page. For help in viewing the site, see the technical FAQ. Your comments, corrections and suggestions are always welcome.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-amb1.htm
Last modified: 5 September 1998.