The ultimate in Surprise marketing defies quantum physics (and pulls a Rod Serling )by bursting into a twilight zone I call "The Fourth Dimension," where people actually interact with your message. You know your ads are profoundly infiltrating consumer pores when people are buying products based on them (a la Staples' "Easy Button" and the Suburban Auto Group's Trunk Monkey) or, just as good, taking the time to take pictures of, and pose next to, them.
Great example of the latter is this from Cingular in New York's Times Square, the mecca of Pow! advertising for over a century. Check out the people with cameras. They sure ain't shooting the statue of George M. Cohan... (Big shout out to Airborne colleague Parisa Foster for sending this one along.)
Magnificent impact and a tourist attraction. What's more, it gets the message across in an ultra-effective and most startling manner. (Hope that in its new incarnation as AT&T (again!), the Cingular folks can continue to draw eyeballs...and eardrums.)
Great lesson, as well, in How To create Surprise. In the proverbial nutshell...simply expand beyond the proverbial nutshell. You've seen this work when newspaper ads explode outside their columns into the surrounding text, when magazine ads pop up or are appended with a tangible extra (a la the free full-episode DVD that AMC gave away to promote the show HU$TLE in this week's Brandweek). People expect a billboard to be some sort of rectangle; by expanding its shape and physicality to street level, the Cingular billboard above increases its effectiveness exponentially.
Doesn't just work with ads though. Think of the boundaries people tend to put on your personality or capacity...then step outside them and do the type of thing that will shock their systems, and keep 'em talking for years.
The Fourth Dimension is where one goes to make a difference. Enjoy the trip!