Background

Out-of-home communications agency, Posterscope, partnered with Nokia, O2, Proxama, and JCDecaux to create the UK’s first ever NFC-enabled poster campaign on behalf of 20th Century Fox. The campaign allowed users to watch a trailer for the movie, X-Men: First Class, on their smartphone when they placed the phone against an NFC-enabled poster.

Posterscope’s primary objective was to increase their profile as an innovator in the out-of-home media industry by demonstrating how traditional posters could be integrated into a digital advertising campaign using NFC technology.

During this project I was responsible for designing the interactive poster for the campaign, and performing usability tests with the technical team to ensure that the interaction was functional and intuitive.

The effectiveness of each design was tested on users who had no prior knowledge of NFC. The designs were then iterated based on users’ behaviour and feedback during the tests.

Interaction Design

At the time, public awareness of NFC was extremely low, and the existing NFC iconography was obscure, abstract, and uninterpretable.

I designed several icons intended to encourage users to perform the required action of touching their smartphones against the poster. The effectiveness of each design was tested on users who had no prior knowledge of NFC. The designs were then iterated based on users’ behaviour and feedback during the tests.

We discovered that users required a combination of iconography and text, rather than one or the other, to understand the interaction. It was also important that the “radio waves” in the icon pointed towards the image of the phone, instead of away from it, otherwise users thought that they had to send or transmit something from their phone for the interaction to work.

Prototyping & Usability Tests

To test whether the poster’s design was functional and intuitive, we created a life-size mockup of the poster featuring the icon and studied people interacting with it. This quick and cheap method of testing revealed that the placement of the NFC icon had a significant affect on its effectiveness.

Surprisingly, the NFC icon was noticed less often when it was placed at eye level. We also observed that some people did not want to draw attention to themselves in the street, so it was important that the icon could be reached discreetly. The most effective location for the NFC icon was just above the average waist height (roughly 85-92cm off the ground) as it was both highly noticeable, yet discreet to reach.

When we tested the poster inside a real poster display case, we discovered that the distance between the poster and the glass was so great that it prevented a smartphone from communicating with the NFC chip attached to the poster. This meant that every poster had to be installed much closer to the display’s glass than usual to ensure that the NFC component functioned correctly.

Conclusion

The NFC-enabled poster was demonstrated to some of the biggest agencies and clients in the media industry, including Carat, Vizeum, Walker, Havas, OMD, and PHD. Thanks to the thorough testing, the demonstrations were executed flawlessly.

The campaign was featured in several leading industry publications, including MediaWeek and Campaign, which helped to raise Posterscope’s profile as an innovator in the out-of-home media industry.

The success of this campaign led to further projects that demonstrated how other cutting edge technologies of the time - such as augmented reality, QR codes, and voice search - could be used to integrate traditional posters with digital advertising campaigns.

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