Luca Silva e Andrea Dovichi - Studiowasabi.com
But let’s start at the beginning: The first advertising posters were printed in the last decades of the 19th century. In Europe and the USA, the economic prosperity attained thanks to the industrial revolution had resulted in an increase in the population, an exponential urban growth and, consequently, a radical change in the society living there. The city was alive and animated. Temples dedicated to the display and sale of products in series were created and places for entertainment and relax became necessary: Theaters, cabarets, nightclubs and cinema halls.
FROM THE NEED TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE INHABITANTS OF THE MODERN CITY
– recipients and users of all these goods and services – came the first advert posters that thanks to modern printing techniques and to the integrated use of images and words, turned out to be the ideal instruments to reach as large an audience as possible.
Due to this heterogeneous nature that decreed its initial success, the “traditional” advert sign has today been surpassed by interactive billboards that are becoming increasingly popular.
BUT WHAT IS THE SECRET OF THEIR SUCCESS?
While the normal advert sign no longer arouses feelings in the observer, the new technology engrosses passers-by, surprising or raising awareness to them, thus achieving resounding success and allowing it to be more easily remembered. The first step in involving the observer consists in recognizing him/her: Initially the interactive billboards were capable of disseminating the advert claim by connecting via bluetooth to the user’s mobile. By improving the technology at the base of these billboards, Japanese electronics giant NEC has created a software that, through a webcam, allows distinguishing the main characteristics of people walking by. After a few seconds, a product chosen based on the information acquired is displayed. All this brings to mind the science fiction idea behind the film “Minority Report” and many western analysts – given NEC’s intention to export this technology to Europe and the USA – fear that the empowerment of this software may pose a limit on our freedom. In answer to this, NEC has stated that the signs are not capable of memorizing the faces of passers-by but only the results analyzed, hence there is no threat to anyone’s individual freedom. (Image 1 - www.cinemablography.org)
ANOTHER METHOD FOR REACHING A GREATER AUDIENCE CONSISTS IN CAPTIVATING AND ENTERTAINING IT.
To facilitate people’s approach to a medical career, the Canadian company LG2 has installed interactive billboards at some bus stop shelters depicting a man man with two hands drawn on his chest. When a person approaches, a flat ECG is projected on a screen and, once that person places his or her hands on the figure, everything returns to normal and simultaneously, a message appears encouraging people to undertake a medical career (Image 2 - Watch the video http://bit.ly/pjlheart)
A campaign created to involve its target by entertaining it is the one by ING, sponsor of the German national basketball league. In order to get the younger audience more interested in the events taking place all over the country, it has created an application for smartphones that allows making “free throws”. To play, users must connect through their Facebook profile – a very popular social network among the younger generations (Image 3 - Watch the video http://bit.ly/pjlfreethrows).
This example opens an important scenario: that of social networks.
ADVERT BILLBOARDS THAT INVOLVE ALSO THIS FORM OF COMMUNICATION CAN BECOME VIRAL
and the claim reaches an even wider audience thanks to sharing by the users. To confirm the importance of the viral element of the message, we can look at the campaign by Evoc (USA). The brand, specialized in sports bags and accessories, has created a practically indestructible backpack. And to prove it, it has installed one inside a billboard. Passers-by were invited to test the product’s resistance first-hand by trying to find a way to damage it. Photos immortalizing people’s expression as they struck the backpack were published on the brand’s Facebook page in real time (Image 4 - Watch the videohttp://bit.ly/pjlevoc).
One last example to underscore the importance of social networks in the new communication is the “smile stations” installed in train stations in Israel by Prigat, a fruit juice producer. The different billboards featured the messages left on the brand’s Facebook page.
By hitting the button that resembled the “like” button, passers-by voted the best message.
Over ten thousand were sent in and thousands of people virally transmitted them on their own profiles by clicking on the button (Image 5 - Watch the videohttp://bit.ly/pjlsmile).
ANOTHER REACTION THAT DESIGNERS FOCUS ON IS SURPRISE:
When a passer-by finds himself before something unexpected, he tends to remember that message and the brand associated with it better.
In one of the largest and most frequented squares in the world, New York’s Times Square, every company exhibiting its advert does all it can in order to be noticed, but the task is not easy given the competition and the scant attention of passers-by. To try and attain this goal the US retail chain Forever21 has installed a mega screen featuring a girl who, by interacting with the crowd, takes pictures. But that’s not all: thanks to the use of high-quality videocameras and modern software that can retrieve information on the behavior of the people present in the picture, the girl can interact also with individual passers-by. This has turned out to be a great method to attract attention is an area densely populated with people and giant screens(Image 6 - Watch the videohttp://bit.ly/pjlforever21).
IN ITALY, IN MILAN, BANCA PROFILO HAS INSTALLED AN INTERACTIVE PANEL IN THE GATE ACCESS HALLS OF LINATE AIRPORT.
A software manages interaction between the contents projected and the people passing near the wall: Every movement determines a shift in the elements comprising the message, leading people to discover what at the beginning is cached. Such elements are symbols and concepts that the bank intends highlighting for its corporate identity and that change during the time the billboard is displayed (Image 7 - Watch the videohttp://bit.ly/pjlbancaprofilo).
Some campaigns have decided to flank latest-generation billboards with the presence of an operator who, by observing the surrounding environment and passers-by, can change the billboard’s message in real time. To promote its #creativedays – a series of 14 events organized between Europe, the Middle East and Africa – Adobe asked Photoshop artist Erik Johansson to touch-up in real time the photos taken of people waiting for the bus in a specially modified bus shelter (Image 8 Watch the video http://bit.ly/pjlcreativedays) - while, to celebrate the “not normal” relationship between its fans and their car, the Mini, in Great Britain, has involved dozens of copywriters who composed the advert message dedicated to the Mini passing by on the spot, customizing it with color or other original characteristics (Image 9 - Watch the video http://bit.ly/pjlmini)
AMBIENT MARKETING IS A FORM OF NON-CONVENTIONAL ADVERTISING
that exploits the environment in order to “meet” the public, bringing the message directly where its specific target is located, surprising it by being found in an unexpected place for the reception of an advertising message. The surprise factor allows the message to be better recognized and for this reason, some companies have decided to merge the interactive signs with the surrounding environment by performing innovative actions of ambient marketing.
For their #lookup campaign, in Piccadilly Circus – one of the most frequented squares in London – British Airways has installed a panel where each time one of their planes takes off from Heathrow airport and flies in the sky above the square, a child points to it, following it “in real time”, while a monitor displays information relative to that flight (Image 10 - Watch the video http://bit.ly/pjlbritish)
A SIMPLER BUT EQUALLY EFFECTIVE SIGN IS THE ONE INSTALLED IN STOCKHOLM’S METRO TO PROMOTE HAIR PRODUCTS.
By using special sensors that distinguish the bustle of passengers from the noise of trains, the model’s hair is ruffled by the wind produced by the passing of a train. This effect was so real that even the managers of the company owner of the panels were surprised and, to demonstrate the efficacy of their product, decided to prolong the installation.
The last two advert campaigns we would like to speak about reach people by building awareness to social or medical issues. To attract new students to their degree courses, Lima’s UTEC (Universidad de Ingenieria y Tecnologia) has designed the first advert billboard that generates drinkable water by absorbing humidity from the air. Installing these billboards in a country where water is an element not available to all would greatly improve the population’s quality of life (Image 11 - Watch the video http://bit.ly/pjlutec)
TO MAKE THE PUBLIC MORE AWARE OF AUTISM IN CHILDREN,
the US project “Autism speaks” equipped some billboards with a system that traces eye movements featuring a life-size girl who averts the gaze of those trying to establish eye contact with her, no matter how intensely that person tries. Given the great success of the campaign and the “simplicity” of the technology used, it is easy to think that in the future the system will be installed on many interactive billboards (Image 12 - Watch the video http://bit.ly/pjlautism)
IN CONCLUSION, WE CAN SAFELY STATE THAT SOCIETY IS RIGHTLY CONTINUING TO EVOLVE AND SO ARE THE NEEDS OF THE PEOPLE PART OF THAT SOCIETY.
The strong points that once decreed the success of advert signs are today becoming their weak points. Last century, it was sufficient to effectively transmit a message to a vast and heterogeneous audience, while today communication must be channeled as much as possible and this is the reason why the first interactive billboards looked for a way to “understand” passers-by in order to propose a “customized” message. The fact that a billboard is present in a street or in a square is no longer sufficient, either, because there are so many of them. It is necessary to disseminate the message further so that it reaches also people who never pass by that street, and what better way to do so than through social networks? The simple use of images and words is something routine on any form of media and it is unfathomable to be remembered just for that. The observer must be struck by what is being shown, experience emotions, be surprised.
Many companies are realizing this and it is a safe bet that the presence of interactive billboards will grow exponentially in the next few years also thanks to the development of technology.