Another ad-free surface is lost to the worldIt is late at night. You sit in a daze, staring blankly out the windows of the No. 7 subway line. Yawn! Just another commercial for Adidas.
As the train pulls into Naebang Station, you bolt upright in a delayed reaction to the phenomenon you’ve just witnessed. Did you really just watch a seven-second commercial, beamed from inside the subway tunnel? Perhaps you dozed off and dreamed it.
As if the giant flat screens playing commercials all day on subway platforms and in passageways weren’t enough, advertising companies have now embraced new technology to target commuters between stations. Their strategy would seem to be to leave images in people’s minds before viewers can determine whether what they’ve seen was a dream or reality.
“We’ve conducted studies that revealed that 17 seconds of watching a moving image has the same effect on the mind as viewing 20 outdoor posters,” explained Ryan Lee, CEO of MotionPoster Korea, the local subsidiary of the British company responsible for the ads for Adidas and brands such as Ray-Ban, Visa and Sony.
Truly, a brilliant marketing strategy. But the idea of tunnel advertising is nothing new; it was patented decades ago, Mr. Lee reported. “Only since our investigation in 1999 have we decided that we have sufficient technology to put the idea to use.”
So, what exactly is it?
Since May 2002, a 100-meter (330-foot) section of solid wall, separating trains headed in opposite directions between the Express Bus Terminal and Naebang stations on the No. 7 line, has sported 168 built-in screens displaying moving images created with Adobe Photoshop. The end result resembles a TV commercial: the images move at a rate matching the speed of the moving train, enabling riders to see something like a short film in the darkness outside the train. A sensor activates the system when a train enters the tunnel.
“There are only a handful of areas in the Seoul subway system that have solid wall panels in the tunnels between stations to enable a sturdy and safe installation of this system,” said Lee Min-ok, of the Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corp. “The tunnel between the Express Bus Terminal and Naebang stations on the 7 line is the only spot in the city’s subway system that presently has these special screens installed.”
Mr. Lee of MotionPoster Korea said the spot was chosen after conducting a passenger count, which revealed that a daily average of 250,000 people pass it. A few days ago, the Naebang ad was flicked off so MotionPoster could improve the software, said Seo Chan-gi, a company official, but it will start back up next month.
Members of SMRT remain skeptical about this futuristic ad-making. Between Mapo and Gongduk stations on line 5, a variation of the tunnel ad existed until recently, using LED technology.
That system, run by Tunnel Vision Ad Korea, used sensor screens on the walls to produce text ads. But it was terminated in August. “We’re not sure how well these ads have achieved their intended purpose,” Lee Min-ok said. “Frankly, we’re not even sure if many people recognize this technology exists, because it’s only been installed in one or two stations in the entire subway system.”
It seems safe to conclude that the new technology hasn’t left subway riders with a strong impression.
“I might have seen something odd like a moving image outside the tunnel one time, but I can’t say that I’m positive,” said Jennifer Cho, 23, who passes the station regularly. Subway commuter Park Duk-jae, 52, said, “I haven’t heard of anything like that, and I certainly have not seen it in action.”
But the company, whose British parent operates subway ads in Budapest, Frankfurt, Munich, Athens and Hong Kong in addition to Seoul, remains upbeat. “I’d say that this is a pretty profitable investment,” said Mr. Lee. “We look forward to our expansion in the city.”
by Stella Lee