One of the bright young things in our office recently popped his head in my door to enthuse over the giant Spider-Man tower wraps dotting the cityscape: 'Are you writing about them? They're AWESOME!'

One of the bright young things in our office recently popped his head in my door to enthuse over the giant Spider-Man tower wraps dotting the cityscape: ‘Are you writing about them? They’re AWESOME!’

While his enthusiasm may be partially fuelled by the fact that he’s a fan (his e-mail signoff leading up to the film’s debut gave a running tally of how many ‘more sleeps to Spider-Man’), it’s also due to the poster’s 3D-esque Wow! factor. The giant Spidey clinging to a skyscraper, blanketing the sides of carefully chosen tall buildings, creates a cleverly compelling perspective.

When it comes to architecture, I’m usually more impressed by the van der Rohe or Gehry-inspired silhouettes than Stan Lee, yet this really big, really intrusive ad campaign didn’t bug me at all. In fact, I found myself frequently staring at the visuals, entranced by the symmetry.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of ‘domination’ campaigns out there without much charm. And the term ‘dominate’ is often used to tout the unavoidable nature of such messaging with an inordinate amount of pride and very little sensitivity to the possibility that not everyone will be delighted to be thus dominated.

Our cover story (‘Novel marketing opps bow’), explores this issue. On first glance you might presume the story advocates an Adbusters agenda. It’s not about that. It’s about avoiding falling into that zone – where consumers find the environment to be so overly ad-soaked that the money you spend to persuade them actually ends up ticking some off. This is about taking an arm’s-length look at everywhere and everything your logo adorns, and – through your consumer’s-eye view – ask whether you’ve honestly added value or entertainment – or just clutter.

It’s difficult to do, in that it’s highly subjective in an ‘It’s not the medium, it’s the message’ vein. It may seem like a ‘no duh’ topic, yet look around: a lot of advertisers out there are clutter perps, and the rest of the marketing universe suffers for it. From temporary tattoos on wrestlers or a stunt trolling for adspace on tombstones, to some of the not-really-very-integrated ad as editorial content endeavours, both the media and the reception accorded marketing messages take a hit.

At the recent CMDC confab, speaker Martin Thomas, total communications director of U.K.-based Mediaedge: CIA, commented on how easy it is to get carried away by all the exciting new advertising opportunities, but cautioned that marketers should look to see if they need to pull back, lest they play into the hands of the anti-corporate sentiment of youth. To achieve the right balance, Thomas urges placing the consumer at the centre of thinking when communication planning. While he is an advocate of helping clients navigate the complexities of channels and disciplines, and ‘the need to move out of the mainstream box to embrace all different channels,’ Thomas opines ‘Ubiquity is evil.’

‘To me it says irrelevant clutter,’ says Thomas, whose formula for striking an effective balance, and a better ROI, is ‘less media, less mess, less waste.’

Describing an on-cow promotion in the U.K., and other novel but questionable executions, Thomas calls the quest for ubiquity ‘our own form of madness, fighting clutter with clutter.’

Thomas doesn’t mean avoid novelty ad opps. In fact, he calls upon the industry to ‘challenge sacred conventions, and develop new ways of working.’ Some examples of ideas that pass muster include Evian providing swimming pools at concerts, or a chocolate brand’s very intriguing European promo, wherein one morning the denizens of a town found a Soviet sub in the middle of their town square, and lost sailors wandering around. So explore. But just make sure you pass Thomas’ little test: ‘If you’re not adding value, you’re adding clutter.’

His perhaps most inspirational, but executionally challenging admonishment was that to achieve all this, one ‘needs clients to be insane.’ He explains that the most powerful and dynamic brands tend to have both a coherent belief system and an unusual communications approach. Therefore, as per Thomas: ‘The insane shall inherit the earth.’ Comforting, that.