By Nathan Elliott, Elizabeth Crisante Green, and Simón Rojas
It has been 55 years since Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound of Silence’ topped Billboard magazine’s pop singles chart. While the song’s themes of talking without speaking and hearing without listening are universal, the anthem also provides an aid for understanding the noise surrounding today’s modern cities and the technologies being developed in response.
It is no secret cities are in the midst of a noise epidemic. Between car horns, ambulance sirens, and human exchanges, background noise levels in major urban centres often reach 70 decibels—almost as loud as a vacuum cleaner at close range. The World Health Organization (WHO) has even declared noise pollution as a major public health issue.
Drowning out the noise
As city life gets increasingly louder, urbanites are turning to new technologies to drown out the noise. And, so, too, are big brands with their unique street-level marketing and advertising efforts.
On October 30, 2019, Apple launched its much-anticipated AirPods Pro. The release made instant sound waves around the world, with features including immersive audio, multiple ear tips, and most notably, active noise cancellation. By December, they were sold out almost everywhere, just in time for holiday disappointment. With this, the stage was set for a new chapter in communication, namely for brands attempting to capture the attention of consumers, increasingly distracted by their mobile phones and wearable technology.
AirPods Pro sales continue to impress, with analysts predicting more than 100 million units to be sold in 2020 alone. For perspective, according to The Wall Street Journal, so many New Yorkers had dropped their AirPods onto the subway tracks last year the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was considering issuing a public service announcement (PSA) to ask commuters not to take them on or off while entering or exiting trains.
Wearables to create new opportunities
Advertisers often talk about how the public is glued to their device screens. In response, recent industry production has mainly focused on creating memorable video content for mobile consumption. One class of device, however, is rarely-to-ever discussed in marketing and advertising channels: wearables.
Wearables are part of a rising technology class and are fundamentally altering the way people interact with machines and, at the same time, with one another. They are also creating new opportunities for companies in digital out-of-home (DOOH) and retail that are looking—and listening—for change.