March 1, 2024

Whispering sweet nothings in commuters’ ears

Hi there,

Here’s an advertising idea which needs a report from a consultant bioethicist. Sky Deutschland (part of News Corp, but not related to the British Sky) is considering a novel channel for advertising – bone conduction through window glass.

The idea is that weary commuters often rest their heads against the windows of trains. At unspecified intervals, a spoken message is broadcast through the glass. No one else can hear the words. The video below shows startled commuters wondering where the message came from.

The BBDO advertising agency told the BBC: “If our customer Sky Deutschland agrees, we will start with the new medium as quickly as possible. Some people don’t like advertising in general. But this is really a new technology. [It might] not only be used for advertising, but also for music, entertainment, mass transport information, weather reports and so on.”

I don’t know much about psychiatry, but mightn’t a device like this spark latent paranoia in a few people? Isn’t there something creepy about invading people’s privacy in this way? Shouldn’t you ask for informed consent to plant an idea directly in people’s heads? Isn’t there something fundamentally different between this and ads on a TV screen?

As for me, I have already made up my mind. I won’t be waiting for the consultant’s report. The video shows that the message is transmitted through tiny black box which is linked to the window by a wire. I may never have the opportunity, but if I ever do and if anyone from Sky Deutschland out there is listening, I swear I am going to rip the wire out.


Michael Cook
Hollande wants to fulfil an election promise.