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Emotional Billboards: The Idea Behind the Execution

April 15, 2011

Drivers waiting in traffic at the Holland Tunnel (which is a very common occurrence among New York commuters) have the chance to see the world’s first billboard with emotions. Using a smartphone app called GoldRun, created by Tronic, passerbys can see if the billboard is sad, happy, or excited about the Knicks making the playoffs for the first time since Ewing left.

People can also express their own feelings and share via social channels via the app which uses GPS-based, augmented reality.

The emotional billboard is part of Adstruc’s “Billboards for Everyone” campaign. It gives artists the chance to experiment with the use of billboards. The first, which debuted last month, was created by Shepherd Fairey’s Studio Number One.

Adstruc is an auction and listing-based marketplace for outdoor advertising. The effort is sponsored by JWT New York, Fuel, SPREAD Art and Culture magazine.

Ad+Geek caught up with Tronic co-founder Vivan Rosenthal to find out how the world’s first billboard with feelings was born:

Ad+Geek: A billboard with feelings? Where did that idea come from?
Vivian Rosenthal: I launched a mobile augmented reality (AR) app called Goldrun a few months ago. It brings together GPS, virtual goods and AR to allow for location-based advertising that is visually driven. [JWT Chief Creative Innovation Officer] James Cooper and [BA Reps] Louisa St. Pierre were both familiar with [the app] work and they approached me to collaborate on a billboard. I knew I wanted to create an interactive billboard that leveraged augmented reality and from there the idea emerged to design our own take on the Emoticon and use it to bring a billboard to life. This execution is just the beginning. Tronic and GoldRun are working on a number of projects that combine out-of-home (OOH) media with mobile in really new and exciting ways.

Ad+Geek: What were the challenges in coming up this execution?
VR: Bringing together OOH and mobile will be important in the landscape of advertising, but it’s not without its challenges. The biggest hurdle is letting the OOH community know about AR and its possibilities. Right now, they are two distinct mediums that aren’t speaking to each other. Hopefully that will change.

Ad+Geek: What were some key learnings from this project?
VR: The call-to-action has to be very clear. If we did it again, we’d make the copy to download the app more prominent so that more people understood that they could participate in the experience.

Ad+Geek: How is the billboard feeling today?
VR: Very happy. It’s Friday!!!!

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