For many, the evening commute is a pocket of well-earned quiet between home and work. Imagine, on the train ride home, resting your head against the window and immediately hearing a man’s voice in your head:
“Are you bored? Get Sky Go for your mobile…”
Advertising firm BBDO Dusseldorf has devised a way to transit ads directly into your skull. The device, explained in the video below, emits high-frequency vibrations across a train’s window pane. Through a process called bone conduction, passengers who sleepily lean their head against the window hear advertisements for European entertainment provider Sky’s mobile app.
Though this Sky campaign is just days old and is only being tested in two regions of Germany, it has raised more than a few eyebrows. Adi Robertson of The Verge describes it as “a marketing concept that may be pure evil genius, or possibly just pure evil.” Promoting products to sleepy passengers, involuntarily, through a voice no one else can hear falls somewhere between creepy and just-plain-wrong on my advertising ethics spectrum, and time will tell whether train passengers in Munich and Achen agree.
Bone conduction technology is already used by the military, in treating hearing impairment and in products like Google Glass and some headphones. The advertising firm imagines interesting applications on trains, including playing music, or giving passengers updates on train schedules or weather. But its use in the context of advertising has some critics decrying it as an invasion of privacy.
BBDO, who devised this campaign, reports positive initial feedback from clients who “enjoyed this new form of advertising.” Of course riders were intrigued by this new technology. What BBDO still stands to see is whether the positive results last once the novelty wears off. Will an advertising strategy that startles and annoys unsuspecting people translate into sales – or negative public opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.