Bananas to humans: ‘this time it’s personal’

The myth of the subliminal message in advertising is a long-standing one. But Ogilvy and All Good Bananas haven’t given up on that marketing dream and have employed the services of some cool instore technology called ‘Audio Spotlight’ to impart a message about fair trade and environmentally friendly bananas directly into the ears—and brains—of unsuspecting Kiwi shoppers.

The promotion (download the message here All Good Bananas ‘Conscience’), which was set up in the produce section at the New World supermarket in Victoria Park, directed a narrow beam of sound into a confined area, which only the person standing there could hear. Ogilvy creatives Matt Williams and Freddie Coltart, they of the recent Subaru hoax ad fame, came up with the concept and Williams says he first heard about the technology through the internet. It had been used most often in locations like museums or libraries for simple information communication purposes, but it was immediately clear to him that it could be used for advertising.

“As far as we know, this is the first time this technology has been used in this dramatic way that clearly takes advantage of the product’s unique capabilities,” says Williams. “Provision Technologies from Auckland, in conjunction with Holosonics, the USA-based manufacturer, were very supportive of the concept and loaned us the technology at no cost, because it is supporting such a good cause.”

It’s certainly fairly fresh in New Zealand. But world-first might be pushing it, as this directional sound technology has been around for a while now (a billboard promoting Paranormal Activity used it in the US a few years back and US TV channel A&E used it for a ‘Whispering Wallscape)’.

The message ((“Know who I am? I’m that inner voice. I want to talk to you about something, something really important – Fair Trade. Choosing them means you’re helping growers feed their families and support their communities. They get paid a fair price. So now you know which ones to choose, make a good choice”) voiced by Kiwi actress Rose McIver is intended to prick customers’ consciences and get them to consider the fair trade product. And while Williams says there have been a few shoppers who thought they were going crazy, most seem to have enjoyed the experience.

“The decision to buy fair trade products is ultimately made by our conscience. It’s an active choice based on individual values,” Williams says. “With the Audio Spotlight technology, we saw a clever way to communicate individually with shoppers, by actually posing as their conscience, and giving them some information about fair trade options that they might not have had before.”

Simon Coley, director of All Good Bananas, says the company’s message is that fair trade products are not only good for the growers and their communities, they’re also good for the environment because they are sustainably grown, and good for you.

“That’s something that comes through loud and clear in this promotion, even though the audio itself will be relatively quiet,” he says.

Dr. Joseph Pompei, inventor of the Audio Spotlight technology and founder of Holosonics said he was happy to see creative teams like Ogilvy use the technology creatively, especially when there was such a noble cause behind it.

“It’s a great way to be sure someone clearly hears an important message, without creating bothersome noise elsewhere.”

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