With the assistance of signage suppliers JCDecaux, McCain - makers of a variety of oven-cooked potato products - have come up with a novel advertising campaign to promote their ready-baked baked potatoes. Bus shelters in cities across the UK are to be fitted with smell-emitting advertisements designed to mimic the aroma of a slow-baked potato.
The shelters don't perpetually make smells, however. A button on the poster, when pressed by passers by, fires up a concealed heating element which creates the scent.
The idea is reminiscent of Smell-O-Vision, Hans Laube's doomed olfactory system designed to enhance movies. A combination of teething technical difficulties and its attachment to a rather poor film caused a wave of negative PR from which it failed to bounce back.
McCain's campaign's a rather simpler affair, though the scent itself took three months to cook up in a "specialist scent lab." In what's being called a "media first," the smell stations will also, bestow money-off vouchers to the masses.
Purveyors of smelly products will no doubt watch with interest to see what the public makes of McCain's smellvertisements. Will they usher in a future in which corporations bombard our noses as well as our eyes and ears. Dynamic smell-scapes with a different sponsored aroma on every corner? People may turn their noses up at the idea.