I have always been on the lookout for ways to not only connect with audiences in bustling cities, but also to enhance the social experience. JCDecaux recently announced a series of “Intelligent Street Furniture” that is being placed in Paris that really excites me. We have obviously seen bus shelters with signage and even video and interactivity, but JCDecaux’ new concepts go beyond that and provide opportunities for enrichment in real-time. It’s unfortunate that I can’t yet find images of more than just one of these new products, but I am hopeful that the Out Of Home executions will not only provide some Ooh-La-La factor, but also make its way to more installations around the world.
Briefly, the city of Paris is testing some new forms of advertising and service products and they selected a number of JCDecaux products to test. A couple of them – like the Digital Totem and Concept-Bus Shelter – are simple solutions with a twist. The Digital Totem offers real-time information, Tweets, and historical facts. The Concept-Bus Shelter adds free wi-fi connectivity and mobile phone chargers (beyond additional comfort benefits).
But what really gets me excited is their Digital Harbour. I really can’t wait to see it because I imagine it will really look great, due to the involvement of designer Mathieu Lehanneur. But again, my real excitement is about what the Digital Harbour will actually do. From the way it is presented, it will provide a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, “a 100% connected area with internet access and space for discussions for people who want to work, rest or access information.” I hope it won’t just be a space made just for solitude – it will be a space for sharing. With the wi-fi connectivity (and the requisite advertising opportunities), the space will be conducive to connecting literally and figuratively. I would gladly be subjected to advertising if the pay-off is the ability to step out of the busy flow to either take a break or have a conversation (or even a meeting!) with an associate.
Far too often, our lives exist in our offices or in the scuffle to and from them. Innovations like these might be just the thing to compel us to step outside or angle for the in-between. I definitely wouldn’t want these to take the place of parks or other beautiful open spaces, but if they actually entice people to either take a break or see things from a different perspective – even with a healthy dose of advertising – I’m all for it.
The only thing I would be pushing more for is the enticement to share and not isolate. If these come across as something to rest and shut out the world, then I don’t think it works as well as it could. It will be interesting to see how they balance the need to place advertising amidst the relaxed and peaceful atmosphere.
As an advertiser, I would even play into it by not doing the hard sell (in print or video) at these locations. I would have fun and “sponsor” the moment of peace or sharing you can enjoy in these Digital Harbours.
Too often, the concerns about out of home advertising relate to noise and interference with no social benefit in return. Features like these could help to turn that tide and make things even a little bit better. I’m glad that JCDecaux is not resting on its laurels and is continuing to innovate. Hopefully, brand and advertisers buy into the innovation to bring the “Wow!” or “Ooh-La-La!”