I feel the suffocating presence of too much advertising all around, crowding me until my skin crawls. I hear its noise in my brain, drowning out my own thoughts.
And now that overused metaphor becomes made literal.
New Yorker Alison Wilson was walking down Prince Street in SoHo last week when she heard a woman's voice right in her ear asking, "Who's there? Who's there?" She looked around to find no one in her immediate surroundings. Then the voice said, "It's not your imagination."
Indeed it isn't. It's an ad for "Paranormal State," a ghost-themed series premiering on A&E this week. The billboard uses technology manufactured by Holosonic that transmits an "audio spotlight" from a rooftop speaker so that the sound is contained within your cranium. The technology, ideal for museums and libraries or environments that require a quiet atmosphere for isolated audio slideshows, has rarely been used on such a scale before. For random passersby and residents who have to walk unwittingly through the area where the voice will penetrate their inner peace, it's another story.
Ms. Wilson, a New York-based stylist, said she expected the voice inside her head to be some type of creative project but could see how others might perceive it differently, particularly on a late-night stroll home. "I might be a little freaked out, and I wouldn't necessarily think it's coming from that billboard," she said.
. . .
Mr. Pompei said the company also has tested retail deployments in grocery stores with Procter & Gamble and Kraft for customized audio messaging. So a customer, for example, looking to buy laundry detergent could suddenly hear the sound of gurgling water and thus feel compelled to buy Tide as a result of the sonic experience.
Mr. Pompei contends that the technology will take time for consumers to get used to, much like the lights on digital signage and illuminated billboards did when they were first used. The website Gawker posted an item about the billboard last week with the headline "Schizophrenia is the new ad gimmick," and asked "How soon will it be until in addition to the do-not-call list, we'll have a 'do not beam commercial messages into my head' list?"
"There's going to be a certain population sensitive to it. But once people see what it does and hear for themselves, they'll see it's effective for getting attention," Mr. Pompei said.
Yes, Mr. Pompei, there is a "certain population" who believe that their brains should not be used as a friggin billboard to sell some company's commercial crap! A "certain population" who draws a line around themselves and says to the marketers and positioners and branders of the world: keep the hell out! As a member of this certain population, I can tell you, Mr. Pompei, that I expend a lot of time and energy avoiding the work of people like you, and this technology is an intrusive end-run around all my efforts.
It's bad enough we can scarcely find a space in our modern world that doesn't contain advertising, that we can barely enjoy a moment of art or culture free of commercial clutter. This company is injecting advertising directly into our brain, and we'll get used to it, because we always do.
Is there anything we can do about this? Commercial Alert has some ideas.
Thanks to my researcher-in-chief.