Hot Cows aim to titillate tired eyes

Leaf through the international marketing press since January, past the usual market predictions, analysis and opinion pieces and you’ll find a faint, but increasingly recurrent, cry for help.

Brands are becoming increasingly aware of an ‘ad avoiding’ public’s distinct lack of interest in the traditional methods agencies still employ to ‘hook’ them.

At the beginning of February, the US telecoms firm Verizon Wireless, warned ad agencies must provide better advice to marketers who are struggling to cope with media fragmentation and new marketing tools or face ruin.

John Stratton – who controls Verizon’s annual marketing budget of nearly $3bn – told delegates at a Los Angeles conference that traditional media advertising “no longer works” and marketers will “fire, hire, fire and hire agency after agency seeking anyone who can help them on where to go next”.

In the UK, marketing budgets are set to rise in 2006 compared to 2005 (according to investment monitor Bellwether); with ‘ambient advertising’ (non-traditional out of home ads such as those you see in washrooms) looking set to continue in popularity, having already risen to a spend of €25 million in 2005.

The great outdoors is looking an ever more prudent place to flaunt a brand.

Anna Carloss, founder and MD of the successful London-based guerrilla marketing company Cunning Stunts says despite an amazing increase in media choice, people of all ages are spending less time consuming traditional media.

“They are out at the gym, in bars, in clubs, at friends, in restaurants. In other words, ‘on the streets’, not watching TV at home as used to be the norm.”

As Stratton concedes, simply buying a poster space on behalf of a client is now likely to get your agency the sack. And Carloss’ idea of publicity is to look for an extreme, like beaming a poster onto the side of the Palace of Westminster. Both arguably engage some interest people have while they are out and about, but…

What if there was a medium that could meet a client’s needs and actually convert that interest into sales as a talking point?

Sally Durcan – an industry expert who has worked in marketing and communication departments at MTV Networks International, Harvey Goldsmith and Universal Pictures – says she has found one.

Her east-London based start-up Hot Cow ( is designed to appeal to clients who want something new and out-of-the-box to appeal to a public that has all but lost interest in traditional advertising, and to look for ways to help people start to recognise and see this advertising again.

Durcan’s concept is, on the surface, a tried and tested ambient marketing technique, but with a novel twist.

While traditional ambient marketing is static – like posters, billboards and flyers – her agency offers flamboyant, outlandish or even visually shocking fashion designs on people – her Hot Cows – who incorporate a client company’s logo and/or advertising message to the brief of the client’s requirements.

Her “walking adverts” are then sent out among people in the street, at a live event or festival or anywhere else where a client would seek to raise their brand awareness and get people talking about her clients’ products.

“Hot Cow creates awareness and recognition that provokes consumer interest,” Durcan says.

“That interest is then converted into sales. For retailers this can go beyond that and turn passing traffic into footfall and footfall into sales,” she explains.

While people are unlikely to read a leaflet thrust at them in a tube station in the morning, they will remember 30 baked beans tins jumping around in Trafalgar Square.

“And if they’re branded with the words ‘Heinz: Available at your local Tesco’s supermarket’, eating the beans and handing them out, people are even more than likely to remember it!” she reasons.

“You add a whole new level of awareness and becomes extremely memorable to potential consumers.”

Durcan says the beauty of her approach is that the promotional platform she is offering to clients is “extremely powerful and memorable” as it “can’t be fast-forwarded, rewound, turned off, ignored or flicked through.”

While there is still room for traditional advertising on the marketing agenda, which still reaches up to around 50% of its target audience, marketers just can’t be sure which 50% of people that is, Durcan explains.

“Where Hot Cow does better is that it reaches 100% of its intended audience and in a more targeted way.”

A launch party thrown by Hot Cow recently attracted a number of large companies including T-Mobile,, Fox International, BSKYB, Piaggio, Homechoice, Vodafone, Yahoo and Virgin holidays.

Representatives of Fast Moving Consumer Goods brands, including Bacardi, also expressed an interest in the unconventional concept…….it also attracted agencies that represent major brands across the country…

And the marketing industry itself is keen on being involved.

Field Marketing magazine publisher Frank Wainwright has asked her company to develop some Hot Cow concepts for its forthcoming awards night, which will be hosting the country’s leading field marketing personnel.

Durcan says she can have her Hot Cows out and about, representing any client, within a month of being commissioned by them.

She is looking primarily for brands who want to target the summer sports and music crowds and retailers who want to capitalise on passing footfall.

“Most of us have a relatively short attention span and we wanted to create a medium that would entertain people, get them excited, inspired and most importantly talking about what they have seen,” Durcan says.

“If we can do that, we can then create word of mouth epidemics for our clients and help them to increase their sales.”


Notes to Editors:

1/. Hot Cow is designed to help brands break though the cluttered myriad of stayed advertising platforms that we are becoming increasingly immune to. Shop fronts, advertising billboards and bus posters are such a part of our daily surroundings that they no longer have the impact they once did.

2/. Hot Cow was inspired by the stories of rocketing sales created by sudden word of mouth hype. The truth is, there is no bigger impact on people than word of mouth. It breaks through our cynical censures, by creating discussion topics and taking your brand to the tipping point. When you generate a talking point, it no longer becomes necessary for everyone to have seen the advertising itself. Through ‘connectors’, the word can be spread through a far more influential means – Word of mouth.

3/. Hot Cow operates through close consultation with companies’ marketing teams to build individually tailored campaigns, incorporating the brand seamlessly into the design.

For more information on how Hot Cow works, see the presentation online at:

Or contact Sally Durcan on:

Phone: 0207 503 0442
Email: [email protected]

Images of Hot Cows in action are available here:

Press release by Presswire

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