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Beaming Mobile Messages To Your Brain

Aug 27, 2013

A couple of months ago some commuter trains in Germany made global headlines: a rail operator’s passengers were treated to a “marketing wonder” of windows beaming advertising messages directly into the brains of said passengers who’d happened to place their weary heads on the glass.
Called bone conduction and already used in military applications and hearing aids, early reviews of this new type of use have been mixed. Not surprisingly, the ad agency BBDO who produced the ad campaign for Sky Deutschland called it a success. Of course they would. But many responses from a Mashable article read more like: “Is this for real? Just stay out of my head. This kind of invention must be BANNED.”

I agree to a point. It is disturbing how technology this pervasive can be abused. Don’t we have enough bombardment of ads already across multiple screens and devices?

But less than two months later, there’s growing (indirect) evidence of a perceptual shift. A new Harris Interactive poll found that consumer interest in mobile advertising offers has increased sharply since 2009. Nearly half, (45%) of mobile phone owners said they were at least somewhat interested in receiving mobile alerts about new products, sales and/or promotions from preferred brands, compared with 26% of respondents who felt similarly in 2009. And of those more recent supporters, 78% said they found location-based advertising particularly useful.

Does this mean brain beaming advertising glass has silenced its detractors? Um, no. But in light of this new data, it’s not that hard to envision a future where location-aware smartphones (or wearable gadgets) will work together with personalized advertising delivered on glass in trains, buses, planes and on walls in airports, incentivizing even more purchases and “brand/brain engagement.” That includes physical purchases as well as in-app buys. In other words, “mobile” advertising doesn’t always require a mobile phone. And as smartphone adoption rates rise, consumers will grow increasingly comfortable with seeing advertisements everywhere they look.

Is there a safeguard against the world becoming one giant digital billboard?  Permission-based advertising – a point the Harris study was quick to address. Consumers must have the ability to opt out of these types of marketer outreach.

Replacing my marketing hat with that of a PR professional’s for a moment, talking glass and mobile advertising appreciation also underscores another need.

PR agencies must make mobile the connective communications tissue of their client engagement and media messaging. Considering mobile devices’ reduced screen sizes, that means thinking smaller; telling client stories in bite-sized nuggets. It also means stepping up the ways in which we promote the importance of mobile messaging and mobile advertisements to clients from the start of our relationships.

“Smart” glass may have yet to hit its stride. But Harris Interactive data confirms that mobile really is everywhere and the pushback from round-the-clock advertising is eroding faster than many communication professionals originally thought.

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