Does a bigger screen give audiences a clearer picture?

23 Sep

Proliferations of screens have materialized throughout the public arena providing society with information, with instructions and unfortunately visual pollution. These public media platforms are ubiquitous, attempting to grab the attentiveness of audiences; from the student wandering between lectures at university, the patient waiting quietly at the doctors to the family eating lunch at their local food court. These unrestricted intrusions on society, these subliminal messages have become a cultural norm. But is this constant invasion of marketing, informative or unethical?

Some marketing agencies get it right and place their public screens in the ideal location achieving maximum positive exposure. At my university (University of Wollongong) screens are placed  in high traffic areas such as cafes, in the region of the student car parks and in areas where students spend a lot of time like building 19 (so confusing, I have been here 2 years and still get lost). Likewise, my campus (Campus East) has a large screen in the foyer situated by the office; students MUST walk past it in order to get to the cafeteria. The media content relayed from this screen is primarily resident information; important dates, contact details or photos of past events. You would think, located in prime position and conveying relevant data this screen would be popular but my observational qualitative research exposed this screen as being often overlooked. The audience involved (the residents) pass through this space in a hurry to get food, a coffee or a bus so the screen and its content doesn’t take priority. So how effective are these public screens and their content? I personally don’t take notice of either of these screens, unless there are pictures that appeal to me such as delicious food, ice cream or coffee.


(Photos located at University of Wollongong & Campus East -copyright Claire Cresswell)

What about on a larger scale; is digital outdoor marketing ethical? In 2007, the Mayor of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Gilberto Kassab endorsed a ban on digital advertising in a public space because of greenhouse gases. “Until we end consumerism and the rampant advertising that drives it, we will not solve the climate crisis” (Worldwatch 2013). This ‘Clean City Law’ rid the city of the digital façade enabling the true identity and urban architecture of Sao Paulo to be reinstated.

Public screens can offer social interaction if the content and the location is audience-friendly. “In a free society we should be able to decide when and where we are subjected to advertising” (Gannon & Lawson 2010, pg 5). Seeburger’s research showed that people were more inclined to watch the public screens while waiting for their friends in a meeting place,  there “they would probably interact with the screens while waiting for someone in the space” (2012, pg 533).

At Campus East, we have screens in the cafeteria area which are ideal for watching a movie as a group/campus or can be run as a social event. This is a great example of turning a private space (usually watch a movie in your own campus room) into a public space (where you can socialise with friends). Public screening of sports at the local pubs is also popular amongst audiences. Big games such as State of Origins and Grand Finals always attract a huge crowd; drawn together by the social camaraderie, the media content and the ideal location.


Photo of an individual at the local FoodCourt (copyright-Claire Cresswell)

These public screens may be bigger but do these media platforms get the audiences’ attention? Do you notice them? or are you another victim of advertising overload? Comment away please!


BanBillboardBlight 2013, Sao Paulo: Before and After, online video, accessed 21st September 2013, <>

Gannon,Z & Lawson,N 2010, ‘The Advertising Effect- How do we get the balance of advertising right’, Compass, Southbank House, London, accessed 21st September 2013, <>

Seeburger, J & Foth, M 2012, ‘Content Sharing on Public Screens: Experiences through Iterating Social and Spatial Contexts’, accessed 25th September 2013, <>

WorldWatch Institute 2013, ‘São Paulo Bans Outdoor Ads in Fight Against Pollution, accessed 21st September 2013, <>

One Response to “Does a bigger screen give audiences a clearer picture?”

  1. Rebecca September 27, 2013 at 3:11 am #

    I agree, that although in theory putting screens in high traffic areas would gain a larger audience; it is not actually the case. I honestly never knew there was a television right above Arts central until your photo.
    Thinking about it, every time I walk past Arts central there are at least some students standing around there. However, I think about the times I’m there and all I’m doing is handing an assignment in after which I immediately walk away feeling relieved.
    Perhaps trying the opposite approach should be taken? That more televisions be placed in areas where people aren’t rushing in or out of, because you’re right usually the only places they capture my attention is at the doctors or at train station when trapped on the escalator. If interactive televisions were introduced more than perhaps these could go in the higher traffic areas, that way it would capture spectators attention and get them to engage while also causing others to stop to watch.

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