Steve Payne of Kinetic: how technology is expanding out of home’s ad horizons

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Hailed by aficionados as a cinematic masterpiece, the original Blade Runner set out a fascinating vision of the near future when it was released in 1982.

Set in the year 2019, bounty hunter Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, is tasked with pursuing human-like androids called replicants in a high-tech, dystopian world where the line between human and machine has been blurred. The film calls into question the very nature of reality and our ability to accurately perceive it.

Today, while we’re not living alongside humanoid robots, the film’s themes resonate strongly, and there are surprising similarities with the world envisaged by Ridley Scott. Indeed, new and highly intelligent technologies are starting to influence our lives, increasingly shaping aspects of our knowledge and sense of reality. Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and robotics are becoming normalised and more readily accepted by the general public. In contrast to the ominous depictions of a future shaped by tech, the majority of people are excited about the prospect of the new experiences and additional layers that tech is bringing to our everyday existence.

For advertising, as with many other industries, the introduction of augmented and hybrid technologies is beginning to have a profound impact. More specifically, the out of home (OOH) advertising sector is awakening to a variety of emerging digital opportunities opening up new opportunities for brand engagement that go well beyond the static billboard. These innovative technologies are enhancing how advertisers can connect with audiences on the move, taking interactions to smarter and more sophisticated levels by focusing on context and relevance to optimise campaigns.

Companies like Meshh, for instance, can seamlessly augment OOH campaigns with a mobile element through the provision of hyper-local media networks. Consumers waiting for a bus or looking at a particular retail window, for example, can be offered high-speed downloads, such as vouchers or additional content, without the need for WiFi within a radius of just a few metres.

Adding levels of interactivity, such as this, is becoming increasingly important to amplify the reach and engagement offered by OOH channels, and it is being taken to truly immersive levels by technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR). An example is Voyager, the world’s first full-motion cinematic chair, which is now commercially available for UK advertisers, bringing with it the potential for premium, multi-sensory experiences in public spaces, adding a complementary layer to OOH campaigns. The Voyager chair layers HD visual content with high-definition sound, haptic movement and even scent, engaging all five senses to enable consumers to truly suspend all disbelief and sink into a virtual world behind the headset.

And sensory OOH experiences are not exclusively personal. Our city skylines are also providing the canvas for new types of visually stimulating imagery. An example is ECHO from British start-up Lightvert, which facilitates the projection of large-scale digital images from the buildings around us. Blending mass reach with unique, personal engagement, it is based on the ‘persistence of vision effect’ where images are fleetingly visible only to the viewer as a visual ‘echo’.

There is more than a nod to Blade Runner in the images Lightvert’s technology is able to create, and it demonstrates how the world outside our home is fast-becoming a technological playground for advertisers, agencies and consumers alike. Our ordinary experiences are about to quite literally become extraordinary as new technologies begin to push OOH advertising into new-found territories; what was once just advertising is evolving to become a whole new experience on a level once imagined by science fiction.

Steve Payne is director of insight and marketing at Kinetic Worldwide.

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