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When the medium controls the message

I was walking through Shoreditch the other day with my husband and we saw this billboard advertising the re-release of the Sgt. Peppers album.

There was a group of people standing underneath it looking.
Unusual for a billboard I think we can all agree.

I imagined someone was being mugged or something but no.

They were looking because the billboard was literally growing.
The foliage underneath the main image was an actual flowerbed, containing real live flowers, and the central bass drum was a real physical object, not just an image of one.



Billboards don’t usually stop people in the street.
For the most part, no one takes any notice at all.
They are an unconsidered blur at worst, at best a time waster if you are waiting for the tube.

Sure we can all argue that they lodge brands in your brain without you really noticing, but on the whole, the message is lost, the point doesn’t land and according to the ASA, 89%* of the time, you may as well not have bothered.

Yep, 89% of all forms of marketing communications every single year aren’t remembered.

So when you manage to cause people to literally stop in the street, this is something to stand up and take note of.

I’ve seen this before.

Last year, I was walking past Waterloo station and the same thing occurred. This time, the billboard was a Wimbledon themed tennis court promoting the Real Fruit campaign from 2016. The tennis court was hanging off the side of the wall, with an enormous great big orange segment to boot.



The message literally broke out of the usual confines for a billboard.

It is truly remarkable that this one act of breaking out from the flat dimension can radically alter our understanding and appreciation of the message.

If we apply reason to understand why this is happening it perhaps isn’t that surprising.

There is too much stuff in the world.

An average Briton checks their smartphone 221 times a day and we consume an enormous number of messages in the 8hrs and 41 minutes we spend on screens every single day.

Our experience of the world as human beings has become increasingly over reliant on a world, which is condensed into one dimension. Be that on a screen, on a wall or in a magazine.

Like an athlete who trains every day of their life and is in peak physical condition, we have become enormously efficient at processing this vast quantity of stuff.

We efficiently discount almost everything for the sake of our sanity.
Our brains see almost nothing new or distinctive amongst a sea of stuff, which overworks our eyes and under utilizes just about every other sense.

We are selective about what we choose to engage with because if we weren’t we would probably not even be able to get out of bed.

Disagree? Scroll down and watch this video. 
Pay attention to who has the ball by the end…



Notice anything?

Whilst you were merrily looking for the person with the ball and unless you’ve seen it before, what you most probably won’t have noticed is the bloke in the Gorilla suit who enters the scene and dances around for a bit.

Yes a chap in a Gorilla suit isn’t disruptive enough for your brain to choose to notice.

In this famous study, typically between 60-80% of people don’t notice the Gorilla.

And it doesn’t matter if you are educated, rich, poor, have a job that requires you to pay attention, are in the police or the bloody secret service.

Our brains simply choose not to engage with most of everything that we are presented with.

The medium dictates the way we process the information.
The medium renders almost everything invisible.

What is remarkable is how little you have to do to break the tyranny of this flat plain.

Like the Sgt. Peppers billboard, or the Robinson’s billboard.

And if this is true of advertising then the same works for information we use to try and encourage or inspire one another.

Think of the creative brief.
Or an audience portrait.

A piece of A4, a slide of powerpoint.
Some boxes. Some words.

Jane is 34 and lives in Slough with her two children…

You could put a gorilla in there and no one would notice because no one gives a shit about Jane who is 34 from Slough.

If we want to challenge this monumental waste of time and money that happens in marketing, perhaps we need to go back to basics and think about what we are saying and to whom.

If you use boxes to dictate your brief, then you will receive boxes as your campaign.

Tash Walker

Tash Walker

I founded this business not out of passion but out of curiosity. Marketing is dominated by opinion, the opinion of a few Vs. the life experiences of the many. I wanted to know, where the hell was real life in all of this? I do all of this because it is fascinating, because I was told you couldn’t and because I think it is the most important question we have to understand about our society today.

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