Ambush Marketing

Ambush Marketing website

Kym Illman is the king of ambush marketing in Australia.

Media Man Australia is delighted to have had the privilege and pleasure of assisting Kym Illman and his business.


Ambush marketing under fire, by Amanda Swinburn (B&T) - 19th December 2005

They pop up at sports games, interrupt news programs and assail celebrities. Love them or hate them, ambush marketers—the marketing equivalent of streakers—get results.

In Australia, businessman Kym Illman, whose Perth-based company Messages on Hold creates tailor-made audio productions for businesses to play to their callers while on hold, has claimed ambush marketing as his own.

When he started the business in 1988, Illman found that he faced the same problem as many new business owners—plenty of ideas but no marketing budget. So he knocked out a few signs with his logo on them and paid a couple of teenagers to go to a West Coast Eagles game and wave the sign in front of the cameras.

“We had just started but we wanted to give the impression of being a market leader, so we had to think of ways of getting our logo out there. The response was so good we have used the strategy ever since,” Illman said.

The group has come up with all manner of brazen stunts to build its notoriety, allowing the company to take advantage of millions of dollars of free advertising and develop a distinct personality and reputation as one of Asia Pacific’s most savvy marketers. The business now services 9,000 companies in the Asia Pacific and has a $13m turnover.

“When Renee Rivkin came to court we did a picture of him in a convict suit with our logo on his chest. I’ve had people stand behind cricketers in Kenya with t-shirts on, and we’ve even put fake sick on the floor at the cricket to clear a couple of rows so we could get enough space to ensure TV coverage,” Illman said.

Even the Queen has been a Messages on Hold victim and Sir Richard Branson, one of the world’s great businessmen and a renowned ambush marketer, was ambushed by the Messages On Hold team on his recent Australian tour.

And it’s not just lesser-known brands such as Message on Hold that have undertaken these types of stunts. Big names such as XXXX, Coke, Virgin and Qantas have come under fire for hijacking events they have not sponsored.

CEO of the London Mara-thon, Nick Bitel, has described ambush marketing not simply as “parasitic marketing” but as “marketing by parasites”, and likens it to theft.

The Victorian Government has enacted the Commonwealth Games Arrangements Act 2001 to prevent aerial advertising in the vicinity of the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and a one kilometre exclusion zone for unauthorised new advertising is being passed by Victoria’s parliament. The bill also provides for an authorised register of users of Commonwealth Games images.

During the Games the Federal Government plans to increase security at Melbourne Airport and may also restrict air space above Games venues to maintain security and protect official sponsors from ambush marketing.

MMA can also be contacted regarding ambush marketing


Media Man Australia and Messages On Hold interviewed by Marketing Magazine about Ambush Marketing - available in newsagents in October 2006


Messages On Hold




Commonwealth Games


Publicity Stunts

Stunt Plane and Stunt Pilot