Signal to noise on the street and on the webpage

Physical and virtual spaces have this in common - noise. 

Whether it's walking down the high street or browsing the average webpage, there are always brands trying to get our attention.

We are expert filterers - a genetic and environmental inheritance. 

We have to be, given all the competing claims on our attention.

Infinite inputs

There are so many ways to get the message out. There are so many messages already out there.

The challenge is to find the most impactful spaces. There are benefits, in this regard, to considering indoor and outdoor advertising in the same terms.

Technology has driven a convergence of outdoor and indoor advertising. QR codes prompt further interaction, just as links or sharing buttons do the same in online spaces. Snapped with the appropriate phone, these codes allow users to tunnel through to a business's online and social media hub – but that landing page better be a thing of beauty.

Videos and animations have become much more prevalent in outdoor advertising. A campaign which runs outdoors and online can make double use of these kinds of assets – a sensible way of conserving resources.

There’s something about the online and outdoor spaces that suggests a similar set of concerns. Context, including the surrounding noise, and the mood of the audience is crucial in both these zones.

There are few more visually polluted environments than a high street. Multiple brands compete, largely unsuccessfully, for attention. There’s no aesthetic coherence. Advertising on websites generates similar issues, as banner, wallpaper and pop-up ads, often by varying brands, fight for clicks.

Static billboards are particularly vulnerable in busy outdoor environments – the eye is naturally drawn to movement, so it's easy for a stationary object, no matter how large, to get lost amid the hubbub. An advert on a bus seems to have a greater chance to catch the eye – it’s often the only moving object of that size in the visual field.

In the mood to buy

But there’s also the mood of the audience to consider. Off to work, or going shopping to a particular store: on the high street people generally have a purpose in mind and there may be no crack for a message to get through. In the online space, Facebook has struggled with low conversion rates on its ads (although the embedding of news feeds ads has massively improved engagement, if not actual conversion), often several percentage points lower than a standard website – a social mood, it seems, is not conducive to the receiving an advertising message.

Adverts work best on a blank canvas and with a captive audience. This explains the effectiveness of those staggered adverts that accompany you on journeys down London tube escalators. The neutral environment of the tube station interior is the perfect venue. Sure, you can read a kindle or book but it’s not always comfortable to do so when people are brushing past or leaning back into you.

An online equivalent might be youtube ads. If you are watching full screen then it fills the visual field. These ads also enjoy the benefit of your full attention – after all you clicked on the video; you made a choice. Again, you are for that short period, a captive audience.

This is a partial examination - but I think there is something to considering online and outdoor zones as physical spaces and in terms of context and audience.

What do you think? Any great outdoor ads you'd like to share?!

image courtesy of incase, flickr
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