Ever get onto the commuter train after a long day at the office and rest your head on the window glass, letting the hum of the window’s vibration lull you into a trance? Well next time you plan to snooze while leaning up against a subway window, you may be in for a surprise: rather than the familiar buzzing sound, you might hear a message being transmitted directly into your skull via the vibrations. Should this occur, we assure you you aren’t hearing ghosts or being secretly recruited to be the next 007; you are simply experiencing a new form of advertising brought to you by BBDO.
The ads, which are completely inaudible until your head touches the glass, work by using a process called bone conduction. What’s that? Well, we aren’t scientists, so the simplified explanation is this: you don’t only hear sound through your ears — sound waves also vibrate through your skull. It’s the same phenomenon that causes your voice to sound different inside your own head than it does to the rest of the world. Small transmitters attached to the windows send out high-frequency vibrations, which are picked up not by your ears, but by your very bones.
In other words, these ads effectively transmit their messages directly into your head.
Technologically speaking, this is pretty freakin’ cool…and yet, kinda creepy. Or at least that seems to be the general consensus of the public. A YouTube video introducing the technology has already racked up more than a quarter-million views, but the majority of reviews are negative: about 70 percent of voters gave the video a thumbs-down, with some commenters calling the ads an invasion of privacy. Not to mention the fact that tired commuters looking to zone out while resting their heads on the subway windows might not be terribly receptive to sponsored messages echoing through their skulls.
While the chilly reception may mean this won’t be the next big thing in advertising, we do wonder how long we’ll have to wait before Nicholas Cage stars in a thriller based around the concept of secret, conspiratorial messages begin transmitted via train windows.