Mindf--ck: A&E ads make New Yorkers hear voices
A&E is literally targeting consumers with hypersonic beams on billboards. The rays broadcast sound in a beam, so the noise is inaudible unless the consumer/victim strays into the target area--in which case they may experience the sound as a voice in their head.
David Giantasio of AdWeek's magazine's blog, AdFreak:
Now, Holosonic Research Labs (sounds like something out of Scanners) strikes some new notes in the urban symphony with a creepy audio outdoor effort for A&E’s Paranormal State. From the release: “People passing by the Manhattan billboard suddenly hear a voice talking to them, but when they take another step the noise is gone. The sound captures their attention and the message appears as though it is just for them.”
Earlier this year, CourtTV used similar technology for a campaign called "Mystery Whisperer":
During the month-long campaign, targeting eleven bookstores and cafes throughout Manhattan, the Audio Spotlight directed more than 100,000 messages to shoppers asking them to tune in to the new Court TV television series.
"Because the message delivered by the Audio Spotlight system is only audible when directly in line with the narrow beam of sound, we were able to capture consumers' attention in a whole new way," said JP Freeley, owner of BlueBlast Media. "We left consumers with a message that resonated instead of one they just walked right past." [Holosonic Press Release, 2007]
Holosonic Research's website offers customers a chance to "put sound where they want it." Great.
The company's PR team has convinced some reporters that this wonderful invention "preserves quiet," which technically it does, on average...at least compared to a megaphone, which broadcasts sound waves in all directions. The ray sends sound to one point, so unless you wander into the beam, you can't hear anything coming from the billboard. None of the gushing media coverage notes that laws against noise pollution preserve quiet even better.
Josh of Gawker got hit by an A&E ray at on Prince St. between Mulberry and Mott. He describes what it was like to literally get shot with an ad for some TV show about ghosts. He was walking along, minding his own business when suddenly he heard a woman's voice in his head saying, "Who's there?"
According to Holoonic, the devices have also been used in libraries and galleries to deliver audio without headphones. I don't know whether people interpret the sound as being inside their head when they are told what to expect.
It's one thing to direct patrons to stand in a particular spot if they want the audio tour. It's totally different, and completely unethical, to bombard unconsenting passers by with unsourced sounds on public sidewalks.
New York needs to ban this nuisance, assuming it isn't already prohibited by existing laws. You can't even put up an outdoor billboard in this city without permission. Corporations should not be allowed to colonize patches of our sidewalks for their stupid brands.