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Digital Out-of-Home Media: Means and Effects of Digital Media in Public Space

Part of the Human-Computer Interaction Series book series (HCIS)


Digital out-of-home media and pervasive new technologies are bringing the internet experience into public spaces and stepping up the pace with which brands and products, as well as their virtual representations, penetrate urban environments. This article explores the current phenomenon of pervasive advertising and its underlying perceptions and puts forward a typology for describing a range of applications for the emerging media infrastructure. It argues that the critical dimensions comprise the way in which pervasive advertising and creatives exploit both physical and social contexts by increasingly relying on the effects of illumination, temporality and spatiality.


  • Public Space
  • Digital Medium
  • Customer Experience
  • Brand Experience
  • Media Infrastructure

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  1. 1.

    B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore coined the term 1999 in their book “The experience economy” [24], defining experiences as a new economy that follows the provision of services, goods, and commodities. In the “experience business”, customers are charged for the feeling they get; in the next stage of product evolution, “the transformation business”, customers pay for the benefit they receive from spending time there.

  2. 2.

    Post-materialist consumption has long been an issue, see ibid alt [9, 24, 30].

  3. 3.

    Bernd Schmitt claims that experiences can be offered strategically. In his book “Experiential Marketing” [28] he states that “experiences are usually not self-generated but induced” and claims that “as a marketer, you provide stimuli that result in customer experiences: you select your ‘experience providers’  ”. Unlike conventional function-and-benefit-marketing, which, according to Schmitt, “lacks a fundamental basis and insight understanding of customers’, experiential marketing is based on psychological, yet practical, theory of the individual customer and his/her social behavior.” Schmitt contends that experiences – depending on their intend effects on the user – may be categorized into various “strategic experiential modules” (e.g. sense, feel, think, act, relate) that can serve as criteria in the design process so as to extend their range (pp. 61, 63).

  4. 4.

    In this article, the term “public space” refers to public places that are designed for and freely accessible to the public. The starting point is the traditional concept of a place as a tangible, three-dimensional location, regardless of whether it is being administered under public law or privately by a legal entity or natural person. The reasons for using this term is to avoid specialized terms such as “Third Places” [23], “Places”, respectively “Non-places” [2], “Other Spaces” as “Utopia” and “Heterotopia” [7], etc. that are highly occupied by discourses.

  5. 5.

    For a critical overview see [14].

  6. 6.

    Joachim Sauter describes the digital medium as essentially immaterial, synthetic and virtual and having four distinct qualities: interactivity, multimedia, connectivity, and generativity, through which the content, narrative and form can be represented, expressed and communicated. These four media options define the medium and distinguish it from traditional forms such as print, film, television, each with its own media characteristics, and also from classical art forms such as painting, sculpture, performance, video art [25].

  7. 7.

    Different jurisdictions regulate outdoor advertising to varying degrees and with different reference models, such as traffic safety systems, cityscapes, etc. In general, there is a tendency to prohibit billboards altogether or to prevent new ones from being constructed (e.g., in Zurich 2009), or to ban them within the city (e.g., in Sao Paolo 2007).

  8. 8.

    Recency, a “school” of advertising planning, believes that relevance, not repetition, is what makes an ad message effective and that its relevance gains proportionally with the consumer’s readiness to buy, i.e. that the prospective buyer’s proximity to the actual buying decision or point of sale is crucial. Impact-driven, continuous and creative advertising generally fails to capture consumers’ attention because they can screen out the messages that are of no interest. Advertising thus becomes effective only when consumers are ready to buy.

  9. 9.

    According to José and Soares, there are two emerging trends that are likely to cause a significant development in ad models: First, the move towards interactive displays that can respond to the surrounding spatial environment. Second, the emergence of pervasive display networks in which advertising models can leverage the power of open networks [11].

  10. 10.

    Cost per thousand (CPT) is a commonly used measurement in advertising. It is used in marketing as a benchmark to calculate the relative cost of an advertising campaign or an ad message in a given medium. Rather than an absolute cost, CPT (or CPM cost per mille) estimates the cost per 1,000 views of the ad.

  11. 11.

    Corporate architecture, as an integral part of a comprehensive corporate identity program, conveys a firm’s core ideas and belief systems by simultaneously providing the symbols, emotional experience, and organizational structure that helps strengthen the perceived corporate values. Unlike conventional architecture, brand environments are not based on an existing physical context but on a holistic corporate identity program designed to represent and support a firm’s values and philosophy [6].

  12. 12.

    Klingmann also observes: “While most architects agree that architecture should create relevant experiences, there is still a lingering confusion about how architecture might compete with, relate to, or distance itself from the noisiness of mediated effects. As digital communication remakes the traditional rhythms of daily life, which is increasingly crammed with sophisticated electronics, many people believe strongly that everything should be action, motion, excitement, and saturation, while countless consumers want nothing more than a seductive oasis.” ([13], p. 51)

  13. 13.

    Anna Klingmann notes: This blur of highbrow or lowbrow in architecture is echoed in Koolhaas’ ‘Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping’, an 800-page tome on mainstream consumerism. It mainly purports that shopping has become the ‘defining activity of public life’. According to one of its contributors, “not only is shopping melting into everything, but everything is melting into shopping” (p. 129). This trend also includes the growing number of signature architects who increasingly use their expertise to blur the distinction between consumerism and elite culture in the form of “shopping architecture.” ([13], p. 125).

  14. 14.

    On the relationship between architecture and branding see ibid alt. [1].

  15. 15.

    A digital screen is a data processing and data output device for presenting visual information (pictures or signs), unlike in the case of a projection screen. Flat or curved screens may be deployed depending on the technology used to project the image and the desired geometrical accuracy of the image production, flat screens being the more common of the two. This article disregards projected images mainly because light emitted from screens used as an output device and permanently integrated into urban space is an essential starting point that includes projections only in exceptional cases on account of their mainly temporal nature. Of course this is a subjective point of view that may be challenged.

  16. 16.

    For the principles of activation theory, see [26]. In cognitive psychology, perception is understood as a process of information processing, in which specific environmental and physical stimuli are selected from a range of other stimuli before they are decoded and combined with prior knowledge. Key features of perception are subjectivity, activity and selectivity. A prerequisite for conscious perception is the willingness to absorb and process information. The capacity to absorb depends on the degree of activation, the “inner alertness”; a temporary increase of activation is referred to as attention [15].

  17. 17.

    For a summary of visual communication research, see ibid alt. [21]. The findings indicate that images are more easily detected and retained than words, like “quick shots to the brain” [15]. At the same time they are also suitable for public use in various communication modes and usually referred to as (1) autoactive, (2) reactive, (3) interactive, and (4) participatory displays [13, 25, 27].


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Stalder, U. (2011). Digital Out-of-Home Media: Means and Effects of Digital Media in Public Space. In: Müller, J., Alt, F., Michelis, D. (eds) Pervasive Advertising. Human-Computer Interaction Series. Springer, London.

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