Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Computing (and Ads) Everywhere

Talk about your captive audiences! Yesterday the Hawthorne Videoactive Report highlighted results from Nielsen Media Research that found 70 percent of respondents recalling advertising seen on gas pumps. Even more impressive, 84 percent said they will pay attention to the next gas-pump advertising they see. When you’re pumping your gas, you truly are a captive market! But think about how many other times that is true—at the ATM, standing in line at a retail store, stuck in traffic on an urban expressway.

Also think about how often you are willing to use free-standing kiosks to perform a routine task—checking in for a flight and placing your deli order in a supermarket come to mind. Staples recently announced a new customer service application that uses in-store kiosks to connect shoppers with product experts at other locations. I remembered a store associate using something similar to find out if the items I wanted were in stock, so I went down and took a look. I found 2 kiosks where you can scan items to get the price, one where you can design your business cards and saw that they called their self-service copiers “print kiosks.” Their applications seem to be a mix of sales and service.

More broadly, the WSJ’s Walt Mossberg (subscription required) says the iPhone points to a wave of “multitouch” items we can expect to see blossom in the near future and gives some examples in an accompanying video.

The big kahuna of this set of products is Microsoft’s Surface computer. Microsoft describes the product as multi-touch, multi-user with ability to recognize different objects and provide direct interaction. At about $5,000 per screen not many of us will have a surface computer coffee table soon, but you will see them in locations like Harrah’s Casinos and Starwood Resorts.View the video here.

Service and sales applications of multitouch devices suggest intriguing possibilities. The eventual advertising implications are unclear. Just how many times, in how many places are we going to be willing to accept advertising before we completely tune it out? The limit seems to be a moving target, but new devices and channels heighten the need to provide more relevant and engaging messages for an already-jaded public.
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