If you (are lucky enough to) live in the Cambridge/Somerville area you may have seen a series of bus stop ads featuring large-format faces holding seashells up to their ears (these ads may also be in other places, I don’t know). Cases in point:
What you don’t see on those seashell ads is a call to action. Or any real indication of the feature, service or benefit that the person, group or company who paid for the ads might be offering. All you get is a tiny little URL at the bottom of the ad: www.theseaiscalling.com
Now, it turns out that these particular ads are for Royal Caribbean because they want you to go on a cruise. But what really struck me about them was that they were actually perfectly targeted to yours truly. With the exception that I have absolutely no desire to go on a cruise. However, the idea of a person using a shell as a phone plays to both my love of technology as well as my prior research interest in Strombus gigas (a different story). It’s a goofy picture and the copy is pun-tastic, but you wouldn’t even need the copy to get my attention. I actually stopped running, took out my phone and hit up the URL. And was kind of disappointed that it was for a cruise ship. Don’t ask me what I thought it might have been that would have been more exciting.
So what? It’s not like Royal Caribbean is the first company to have vague, odd images and copy to pique a viewers curiosity, nor are they the first ones to have a discreet call to action, so you feel like you’ve discovered something secret. What I think is interesting though, is that nowadays here in 2012 they can do this on a street corner and a large segment of people have the capability to stop and look up the website right there on their mobile devices (not saying a large percentage will do this, just that the have the technology). I would love to know what percentage of hits that website gets from mobile.
Here’s my concluding question. I was drawn to that ad because it combined two ideas that I identify with in an unexpected image. Visual images are obviously very powerful marketing tools (duh) but can also be used for market research (check out this Prezi on ZMET). ZMET is a technique designed to get people to use images to delve deeper into their connections with certain products and brands. If you could target your audience demographic closely enough one could, presumably, also figure out what images would make that target audience pick up their mobile device and go to a website. Do you even need the images to relate to your product? Do you need copy? Could we live in a world where all advertising is just large format images precisely selected, arranged and designed to get a specific targeted customer to stop, locate the website* and visit it on spot?
I don’t know. But it would make for a much prettier advertising landscape.
*Sidebar: this is what I think was the real use for (now defunct, i think) stickybits. so ahead of your time, stickybits. also maybe QR codes. or something.