Engagement wanted: are you trying hard enough?

Many a media guru, blogger and member of the digerati believe we are firmly in the age of word-of-mouth and of trying to establish conversations with customers.

I am deeply cynical of those who forecast the death of traditional media and its powers of influence. If the one-to-many broadcast era is over, why do people still pay for linear information and entertainment? Why do brands targeting a mass-market prosper using the interruptive advertising model?

However, I am also aware a message that engages consumers is likely to increase the desired effect. Creating interactions with people who are out-and-about can be increasingly more sophisticated and multi-layered. The mobile has got very smart and digital signage is spreading.

This weekend I’ve noticed two particular interactive efforts: one oh so twentieth century and the other what could have been a look at the future, but just didn’t push far enough.

First a car brand produces a large interactive projection on the outside of a building. This has been done before so what’s the difference with this one? The venue is the over-used Truman Brewery in achingly-trendy London’s Shoreditch, home to Nathan Barley and any number of funky ad agencies. The creative idea is post-ironic Space Invaders. The event promotion included paid-for links on Popbitch and Holy Moly email newsletters.

Secondly, what could have been so bleeding-edge? Westfield London on Saturday afternoon. There is a large LED screen at the front of a tent-like structure on the main concourse. Suddenly the recognisable voice of Noel Edmonds says “you, you who just bought the red-roses”. A face appears on the screen and the “spotted” person is asked if they’d like to try and win £50,000. What ensues is a new spin on any number of linear TV quiz formats.

Westfield is the most digital of malls in the UK, possibly the World, digital posters are on every walkway and three giant LED screens overlook open areas. Surely this would have been the ideal environment to experiment with real OOH interactivity? This could have been engaging theatre with; text and twitter, user-generated content, the start of a networked event. The end-result a good old-fashioned linear TV broadcast, with an interactive mechanism. A missed opportunity, me thinks.

Lastly, as screens become more prevalent, beware people-power or the anti-advertising lobby creating a backlash against further development. It needs to do more than just advertising and be seen to be giving something back to the community.