What do freshly cut grass, hot cross buns and coffee have in common? Each smell has been used in a recent Australian ad campaigns that combined old-fashioned print with technology intended to convert smell into sales.
This weekend, Australian supermarket giant Coles is placing ads carrying the scent of hot cross buns in Fairfax, News Corp and West Australian newspapers, with a special gadget being set up to spray the page carrying the ad as the presses roll.
Magazines have long included samples of beauty products and perfume, and scented ads have been around in various forms for decades.
Sydney newspaper historian Ken Sanz said Ad News in the '80s ran ads printed on art paper that you scratched to smell a particular scent.
But scented ads are becoming a more prominent form of niche advertising, and one that publishers are keen to embrace at the expense of digital rivals.
Rose-scented ads for Valentine's Day, the smell of strawberries and cream before Christmas, freshly cut grass for English Premier League and coffee-scented ads for Australian Coffee Week have been printed in recent years.
For advertisers, sensory advertising campaigns tend to be brief and designed to surprise. Ben Willee, of Spinach Advertising, said smell was a "highly evocative scent and therefore very likely to cause a reaction with consumers. The real question is how much does it cost and what uplift in sales it generates."
Brendon Cook, the CEO of outdoor advertising company oOh!Media, said sensory advertising was an ''evolving product, but in recent years various companies have become specialists at being able to capture the smells of foods.''
Outdoor advertisers tend to use places such as bus or tram stops and shopping centres for their sensory ad campaigns.
Cook said although the practice might cost an extra 10 per cent to a usual campaign, it was ''not about the cost but the engagement.
''There's one proviso: do they come back and spend money? The answer is yes, if it's done right creatively, and it's the right product."
Paul van Wensveen, director of strategic publishing at Fairfax Media, said: "We have seen an increase in requests for these types of solutions as advertisers look for more bespoke and inventive ways to engage an audience."
Stephen Browning, spokesman for News Corp Australia, said scented ads were a ''bit of fun that while unlikely to be a huge revenue driver is a great way of using the channel in a different and engaging way''.
- Fairfax Media