The ads in the coming print campaign for Volkswagen's New Beetle convertible are missing one seemingly key ingredient: flattering photos of the car itself. Instead, the ads offer scent strips engineered to smell like freshly cut grass, pine trees and the ocean, all to help readers picture life with the top down.
This appropriation of scent strips, those olfactory teases popularized by perfume manufacturers, is part of advertisers' growing efforts to avoid being limited to a flat image on the two-dimensional printed page. Taking advantage of advances in printing technology, marketers are bundling all sorts of extras into their ads.
Just in time for the holidays, Stolichnaya vodka is attaching to some of its ads removable fold-out wrapping paper designed by Diane Von Furstenberg and filled with cocktail recipes. Toyota, praising "movies that move us," recently inserted a mini-version of the "Zagat Survey Movie Guide" in special advertising sections.
The October issue of YM bound into its pages a CD featuring the boy band O-Town, among others, sponsored by Chanel for its Chance fragrance. And ads for Polaroid i-Zone cameras this year have included stickers and exhortations to stick them everywhere.
The growth of special print units, as the innovative ads are known, is fueled by fierce competition to stand out from other advertisers, as well as by magazine publishers' interest in selling new, premium advertising space to their clients.
"So many of these clients want to be high profile," said Lori Burgess, publisher at Elle magazine. "We have a limitation to how many advertisers we can put far forward in the magazine."
Marketers at Volkswagen of North American, part of Volkswagen A.G., hope that their scent strips, which are running in magazines like Dwell, Vanity Fair, Condé Nast Traveler and InStyle, will achieve a high visibility for the convertible by being fresh, even whimsical.
"There is a general trend now to try unusual mediums," said Alan Pafenbach, managing partner and group creative director at Arnold Worldwide in Boston, which created the campaign. "As audiences become more fragmented, as it becomes more difficult to reach people on a mass basis, we look for little niches and opportunities to reach people in a way that hasn't been tried before."
Another carmaker, the Mini division of the BMW Group, decided to stand out, literally, with a campaign earlier this year. So Mini and its agency, Crispin Porter & Bogusky in Miami, turned to a group of magazine publishers for their ideas.
The result included ads with attached motion-sickness bags - to illustrate adventurous driving in a Mini. Other ads included sticker books that allowed readers to customize an illustrated Mini. Rolling Stone magazine, part of Wenner Media, even bound its Aug. 15 issue with yellow staples to simulate lines on the road so a centerfold ad could show a Mini slaloming among them.
"When we were working with these publications, we were definitely pushing the limits of what they could do with their presses," said Laura Bowles, vice president and management supervisor at Crispin Porter. "But when you look at magazines, there's page after page of ads that people blow by a lot of the time. We needed a unique way to communicate that the brand was different."
When L'Oréal Paris wanted to call attention to its new Pure Zone skin-care line, for example, the publisher of Cosmopolitan and CosmoGIRL hand-bound newsstand copies in the New York area with bookmarks attached by ribbons.
"Just about every day, advertisers are looking to stand out to our readers," said Donna Lagani, publishing director at the magazines, part of Hearst. "Our job as publishers is to come up with ideas that will help marketers sell more products."
In many cases, innovations in America are actually imports from abroad, where creativity is crucial. Newsstand sales are more important overseas, while print runs (and therefore the costs of these projects) are smaller. Several editors said a looser division between editorial and advertising content also fed the creation of offbeat ideas.
But the possibilities are not endless. A coming campaign for an undisclosed client employing scratch-off panels, à la lottery tickets, is feasible but is proving to be challenging, said Clint Ackerman, senior vice president for print production at Arnold, part of Havas.
"From a technical point of view, the printers are always trying to push the envelope, but there are limits to physics," Mr. Ackerman said. "You can only do so much."
Moreover, there is that matter of cost. "They're oftentimes very, very expensive," said Ms. Burgess, the publisher of Elle.
But some big marketers are willing to pay more for the exposure. "In order to get as close as we could to the i-Zone experience," said Randall Smith, director for United States communications at Polaroid, "we knew that we would have to pay a premium."
Nat Ives, The New York Times. November 8, 2002
Copyright © 2002 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.