Networked greeks and banners creak

If you have a spare 20 mins check out this video by Alain de Botton about the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus and how modern advertising taps into our Epicurean need for friends, freedom and thought. Early followers of this philosophy created a kind of advertising of their own to remind contemporaries of the rules for a happy life.

Add Art

Ad Art

I am sure that modern day Epicureans would throughly approve of the Add Art project from artist Steve Lambert who has developed a plug-in for Firefox Browsers that replaces banners advertising with art. With an evident lack of imagination in most current banners campaigns I think this could be a big hit. However, it poses the question: If no one is going to see the ads, who is going to pay for the content? No ads – no fee: no fee – no content. I wonder will anyone pay for content they currently consume for free? My guess is no, so before we reach an impasse we must begin to look at alternative ways of capturing audiences’ imaginations with methods that are more subtle, intriguing and more useful than those currently in use. A popular solution is the ‘Content is King’ approach: give consumers something they actually need and in return they will interact with your brand/products. There are already examples of this strategy beginning to work on the web – but not really with Banners.

As display advertising as a whole begins its inevitable path towards digital delivery and networked control we begin to encounter digital banners in the real world. These ads, if not fully interactive, will at least be re-active via mobile technology. Could it be that eventually traditional platforms such as ad shells and billboards will be forced to adapt and deliver to our Epicurean led sensibilities and if so what sort of content might they begin to deliver?

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Virtual shopping

It’s a long time since I have heard this phrase mentioned. Not since before the “Dot Com Bubble” burst were terms like this banded about and in the interim it has become passé. It is almost as if the phrase alone was reflective of the shameful excesses of the late nineties.

Virtual Office

But behold, the times they are changing, or maybe just revolving. Today’s web users are much more comfortable with playful interfaces and the profusion of broadband negates the old [lack of] bandwidth disappointments. Yes, there is a time and place for everything: If I know what I am after then I should be able to find it ASAP. However, if I am in a more explorative mood then an intuitive experience that allows me to discover products in a fun way can be very engaging.

A project of mine that recently went live for our client Euroffice is based around the concept of a Virtual Office. It was designed to promote their huge range of products [30k+], which may otherwise be overlooked. Initial user testing has been very positive, with some participants actually preferring the experience to more traditional navigation options.

I think that there is a place for experiences similar to this to exist alongside guided/faceted navigation systems and traditional menus. Ecommerce experiences should start to respect customers choices and allow them to engage with brands and products in ways that are reflective of their mood.