Recognizing the Art of Communicating

I read many trade magazines.  Wired, Fast Company, Harvard Business Review – these are some of my favorites.  But, my real favorite is Communication Arts.  It’s my favorite because it focuses on the art of communication, which truly is an art.  If you’re not familiar with it, I recommend it.  It features high quality work from all industries, all verticals, in all mediums – print, photography, video, animation, motion graphics.  

My favorite issue every year is their Interactive Annual (they just published the latest one last week).  Here, they award the best interactive experiences executed in the industry over the past year.  Guess how many IOOH initiatives were recognized this year?  6.  Out of 40.  This is good.  It might not seem that high, but it is double the number of IOOH recognitions last year.  To me, this is incredibly encouraging.  Industry experts consider these to be among the best interactive experiences executed, regardless of medium. 

And there were 2 more – very unique – recognized this year that had elements of OOH/digital/interactive, although I don’t know that I would completely consider them IOOH.  The 6 are really nice.  All interactive through touch and gesture, but really nice.  (2 of which I experienced for myself at the Hard Rock Café in Vegas).  However, it’s not these 6 that I want to talk about.  It’s these 2 very-unique experiences that I want to talk about. 

One is from Nike.  Say what you will about Nike, they are great marketers.  Medium agnostic.  Emerging media experimentalists.  I enjoy most everything I see from them.  This example is no different:  Chalkbot.  The concept is simple – let the collective public decorate the roads during the Tour de France (which is a tradition) through the use of various digital media, namely computers and/or mobile phones. 

This experience occurs outside of the home (so it’s partly there through my definition of OOH), but the actual experience does not originate from a device, medium, or platform that the user does not own.  In this case, it originates from a user’s computer or mobile phone (which does not completely fit my definition of OOH).  So, I ask, is this a true OOH initiative?  I believe yes, it is.  As a spectator (and not an enabler/participant), I experience it outside of my home on a device, medium, or platform that I don’t own.  I can’t turn it off.  It might as well be a billboard.  But the real question that I struggle with is, is it an IOOH initiative?  And to me, given my definition of IOOH, it is not.  Here’s the thing – as an enabler/participant, I must control what the chalkbot does on the street through a device that I already own.  Without that device, I wouldn’t have an experience.  So, unlike a traditional billboard, where you would have an experience – you would see the billboard on the side of the road – the road is essentially bare without my interaction.  In this case, I choose to turn everything on.  And I think that’s the biggest difference between the two.  If the chalkbot was a billboard (and already “on”), I would have an easier time accepting that it was an IOOH execution. 

But it’s very interesting for sure.  It turns interacting with the physical spaces around us on its head. 

The other example is just as fascinating, called Thinking Inside the Box.  This is brilliant, really.  Eight “thinkers” locked themselves inside a huge box in the middle of a busy public space in Toronto, solicited creative challenges by the general public, and solved them on the spot.  All of their interactions were filmed and culled down to make a site.  So, let’s go back to whether or not this is IOOH, according to my definition.  I think that we can most certainly say it isn’t.  In fact, it’s much more clear cut than Chalkbot.  But let’s break it down – it occurs outside of the home on a device, medium or platform that you don’t own.  So, OOH?  Yes.  But there is no interactivity through technology.  So, IOOH?  No.   However, they streamed video and Q/As on digital billboards in the square, so DOOH?  Yes, definitely.   And very intriguing DOOH, due to the real-time nature of feeds and the content itself.

Both of these examples truly illustrate the art of communicating – with each other, between brands/consumers, and most exciting – the spaces around us.  I think that it’s encouraging to see so many “untraditional” digital/interactive executions being recognized.  I think we can all learn something very valuable from all of these stories – don’t constrain yourself to the little grey box on your desk.  Think big.  Be smart.  You can do a lot with a thinking mind.  And it doesn’t always break the bank.

So, what do you think of these examples?  Do you agree with my differentiations?  Or do you lump them into all OOH?

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