Usually little more than a blight on the urban landscape, last week a billboard appeared that can be said to be both a force for change and a fiendishly clever work of art. The campaign to raise money for Women’s Aid – the “national charity for women and children working to end domestic abuse” – urges passers-by to stop and stare at a video of a bruised woman. The longer they look, the more the progress bar at the bottom of the screen fills and the woman’s bruises vanish.
The UK’s first fully interactive billboard, the “Look at Me” campaign is the work of the WCRS advertising agency whose director of innovation and technology, Dino Burbidge, tells me: “It looks simple on the surface but the techy swan’s legs are paddling furiously underneath. There are cameras on the screen and they generate a lot of data which decides which part of the video to play. It doesn’t depend on how many people are looking; one person can change the film if they look long enough.”
The poster was tested at London’s Canary Wharf on Thursday and went live at the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherds Bush yesterday. Today, to mark International Women’s Day, it is in Birmingham. The campaign’s message is simply: “Don’t turn a blind eye”. No chance of that.
Where there’s a will
The news that the average penis size is smaller than previously thought came as little consolation to performance poet Ant Smith, 48. Though the report was published in the same week that he hosted his first “Big Small Penis Party”, Smith tells me: “As long as we obsess about size, we’ll continue to have a problem.
“I hate that this news says that only 2.88 per cent of men are abnormal. Firstly, I’m not abnormal, and secondly, 2.88 per cent is about one in 35. And that’s a lot. That’s your father or brother or friend….”
Smith’s party – held last night in London – had 250 attendees paying an entrance fee of 50p per claimed inch of erect penis size. But while Smith is keen to highlight the humour of his crusade, there is a serious message. “I haven’t suffered the effects of anxiety as badly as some,” he says, “but it has been a constant drain on me for years. It made it difficult to forge relationships [Smith has now been married for 17 years] and I am less fit than I should be due to a fear of changing rooms.”
And what does your wife make of all this? Over to Christine. “I’m proud of Ant,” she says. “He has shown such courage, imagination and humour over this sensitive, almost taboo, subject that I feel honoured just to know him. When I promised to go along with his hare-brained schemes, I did not imagine this would involve helping him tell the world about his lovely willy but, hey, them’s the breaks!”
Too smart by half
Modern technology can be sinister and beautiful in equal measure, and one new product seems to offer both applications in one package. The Burg 31 smartwatch is intended for adults with children and elderly parents. When worn by a child, the watch allows parents to know where they are at all times, using GPS tracking technology. Which raises the question, why wouldn’t any kid who didn’t want their folks to know where they are just take the watch off?
On the plus side, the watch also has an emergency dial feature for senior citizens, which, according to the bumph, spells an end to those “stereotypical, embarrassing and expensive ‘I’ve fallen’ pendants”.
And on the subject of tech which will soon be available in the UK, look out for an app, just launched in the US, called Pocket Points, which rewards students for not looking at their phones in class.
You sign up, open the app when you enter the classroom, and the phone’s tracking device confirms whether or not you are in an academic building. If you are, you gain points for every 20 minutes that you don’t look at your phone, and those points can then be redeemed for drinks or snacks at participating local businesses.
Earn while you learn. Nice.
Better call Paul
It has become quite the thing to issue a legal warning to anyone perceived to have infringed a trademark. First, the LA all-girl band The Singles issued a “cease and desist” demand to Scarlett Johansson, who put out a single using that name. Then Hall & Oates got in on the act when they noticed a Brooklyn-based firm selling Early Bird: Haulin’ Oats Granola. In May, Sir Paul McCartney will play his first UK dates for three years as part of his Out There tour.
Needless to say our lawyers have been alerted.
No rhyme or reason
Another in a regular series of limericks based on recent events:
To the stay-at-home mother’s surprise,
The statistics record her demise,
But the cause of the fall,
Is no mystery at all,
MI5’s got them working as spies.