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Social gets sci-fi

Is the next generation of content-rich, social media-inspired marketing technology already here? The Message investigates…

Remember when video phones seemed such a futuristic concept that we could only ever imagine the technology existing in a world where people wore silver space suits and everyone had a handheld touch screen from which they could control their entire life?

Oh wait…

While Lady Gaga might be the only one actively pursuing the sartorial space age, the rest of that futuristic dream is yesterday’s news. With Skype, video calls are no more exciting than landline calls – except that you need to brush your hair before performing the mandatory weekly check in with far-flung loved ones.

So in a world where the ability to transmit your own face to another country in real time is little more than a weekend chore, what, if anything, has the ability to amaze us?

The search to find that which inspires and boggles the mind is not solely a benign effort to stretch the human imagination. Because whoever develops the technology to amaze holds the key to the next generation of marketing. In a world where very little shocks or excites, technological innovation of the kind that makes people slack-jawed in disbelief is a licence to print money.

Interaction is key

UK media agency Mindshare recently came up with a marketing stunt for Lynx Excite deodorant. True to the product name, the company wanted something that brought a bit of excitement into the daily grind and got people buying – or at least talking about – the product.

The premise was relatively simple. Using ‘augmented reality’ technology, commuters at London’s Victoria Station could see themselves on a big screen – only, they weren’t alone…

The video has been viewed over a million times on YouTube, and while media mavens and tech-geeks alike point out that this is clever computer animation rather than authentic augmented reality (which would require the image to have been projected into the station rather than manifested on screen), the true brilliance of this campaign lies in the opportunity for spectators to interact with the character.

A 3D angel that appears in a train station is something people would remember seeing. They’d probably even mention it to a few work colleagues. But a 3D angel that they were able to interact with – that becomes an experiential memory, one far more firmly rooted in a person’s awareness.

The results are speaking for themselves, with Excite becoming Lynx’s second-highest-selling product after only a few months on the market. It’s one thing to use traditional advertising to suggest to men that a spray of Lynx will bring on scores of sex-hungry women (a technique long favoured by the company’s marketing department) but to show them – in 3D, with a barely-dressed angel no less – is marketing gold.

Holistic, integrated content solutions

Canadian company Flow Media has found the sweet spot between innovative technology and clever integrated marketing, creating large-scale interactive glass displays that tap into mobile technology and social media. Flow Media has developed adGlass™ technology, which essentially turns store fronts into giant touch screens, capable of connecting to users social networks, collecting consumer data and linking potential customers with more information about the product.

The company also offers projection mapping (whereby entire buildings or landmarks can act as canvases for large-scale 3D projections), as well as digital display vehicles. While the technology is impressive on its own, it is the company’s commitment to experiential marketing and holistic, integrated campaigns that set it apart.

Marketers know that interaction and engagement with a brand or product drives sales – it’s the reason why social media marketing has been so successful. But these technological advances are allowing that interaction, that engagement, to move out of the online space and into the real world.

Emotional connections become tangible ones. Seeing becomes experiencing. Social takes on a whole new meaning and encountering amazement and wonder in a London railway station becomes possible.


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