Bring on the interactive mall floors!

OOH is about to get more interesting, not to mention engaging, as shoppers are introduced to interactive floor advertising and gaming experiences. It's the kind of thing you pay attention to, even when you're not the one dodging tarantulas or sinking basketballs.

Over the next three years (or less), Mississauga-based InTouch Media Group is planning to launch a nationwide network of interactive, gesture-controlled floor displays in about 75 malls across Canada. The premise is to literally take brands and advertisers ‘from the floor to the store’ by giving shoppers the power to control advertising and entertainment content with their body movements. Meanwhile, live webcam links allow marketers to watch consumers interacting with their brands in real time.

Telus is one of the earlier advertisers to sign on with InTouch at Vaughan Mills, where their first interactive mall installation went live on Nov. 2. And Calgary-based Pengrowth has already tried out the new technology, using a six-ad rotation with InTouch during its recent sponsorship of the 2006 Canadian Open. As 101,000 people passed through Pengrowth’s sponsor tent, they saw the tagline ‘We attract all kinds of investors,’ and had the chance to step onto an interactive display that produced four-inch tarantulas that attacked their hands and feet.

‘It adds a new dimension for the shopper,’ says InTouch Media Group director David Leetham. ‘A lot of malls are not just malls, they’re an entertainment experience. The other interesting thing about this interactive tech is that it appeals to all ages. You get children on it. You get adults acting like children on it. You can see the interaction, and it’s different than other advertising media. The public stays around and they look at it, and even if they’re not directly interacting with it, peripherally, they’re very interested and they see the message.’

The GroundFX technology was created by GestureTek, a company with offices in Toronto, Ottawa and New York and HQ in Sunnyvale, California. InTouch has been working with GestureTek for the past two years, attempting to advance the interactive mall floor mandate in Canada. GestureTek announced the roll-out of 200 such systems in China in May 2006 (the same month Microsoft licensed GestureTek’s video gesture control technology for use with the Xbox Live Vision camera for Xbox 360). Upcoming installations include Toronto’s Harbourfront and Cambridge centres.

Standard GroundFX displays are 6′ x 8′, but several can be stitched together to create more elaborate experiences. Interactive flash animations, video or games are projected onto the floor while users’ gestures are tracked from overhead. At Vaughan Mills, shoppers can now engage in a basketball game and even hear cheers when they sink a ball, or participate in a competitive toboggan race.

Malls may be the main vertical market under InTouch’s mandate for GestureTek, but the agency isn’t stopping there. InTouch will be testing the waters with an interactive system planned for installation within the next few months at Iroquois Park sports complex in Whitby, Ont. – a venue that was chosen for its 2.4 million annual visitors. Monster Media has already rolled out the arena venue model for GestureTek in the US.

InTouch Media Group VP business development Brent MacDonald says interactive wall displays and window screens are also possible options for advertisers. Two interactive tabletop displays (each 54′ x 42′) – dubbed LoungeFX – were installed at Alice Fazooli’s restaurant in Toronto to elevate customer experiences late last month.