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CBS is planning to invade your breakfast by putting ads for its fall programming on about 35 million eggs. If the thought of seeing an ad first thing in the morning makes you just a little queasy, well you might think twice about grabbing a US Airways air-sickness bag because those, too, will soon be fitted with advertisements.
Although both campaigns have different agendas—for CBS it's about promoting its shows, and for US Airways it's about finding more direct ways to make money—the ideas behind the ads are similar: to generate buzz. "You are making a move from talking to people, to having the people talk about you," says John Condon, chief creative officer of Leo Burnett USA. Condon's agency is not associated with the CBS and US Airways ads; however, his agency has created its share of unusual ads.
The idea to sell ad space on air-sickness bags was dreamed up by US Airways' marketing department. You can thank—or blame—the influence of America West, which merged with US Airways in 2005. "America West prided itself on innovative ways to boost revenue," says Morgan Durrant, a spokesperson at US Airways. In addition to the air-sickness bags, US Airways is putting advertising on tray tables, which America West has been doing for the past three years.
GOOD TASTE PREVAILS. For some companies, being associated with an air-sickness bag isn't a turn-off. According to Durrant, companies from a variety of industries have expressed interest in advertising on them. Durrant declined to identify any of the companies, but did say that the ads will be "in good taste." US Airways expects to reap an additional $10 million in advertising revenue from both the tray table and air-sickness bags.
Advertisers have long searched for ways to stand out by doing something out of the ordinary, even a little strange. That's why, for example, there are ads in rest rooms across America. In the late 90s, advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day promoted ABC shows by creating stickers that were put on bananas sold in supermarkets. In addition, advertising on air-sickness bags is common among airlines outside the U.S. Last year, Britain's Virgin Atlantic ran a Star Wars promotion on its bags.
Don't expect these types of advertisements to go away. The free publicity and buzz they generate is enough to guarantee that someone is working on the next weird ad space. After all, these ads garner "much more attention and they're not even paying [extra] for it," says Condon.