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“Signs of the Times” Art Project Explores Power of Suggestive Advertising

August 30, 2017

Advertising executives and moonlighting artists Scott Kelly and Ben Polkinghorne are exploring the power and invasiveness of targeted recommendations in their public art project, Signs of the Times. The New Zealand-based art consists of large signs posted at four popular locations in the country, each recommending similar locations to visit, whether that be through picturesque points of outdoor interest posted at a famous volcano or images of McDonald’s and other childish destinations displayed on a playground. Signs of the Times is inspired by the “pervasive and sometimes creepy effect” of the algorithms behind the “recommended for you” boxes that appear on sites like Amazon and Netflix when users make purchases. Kelly and Polkinghorne wanted to explore the haunting and seemingly-elusive power of these ads by bringing it into the physical landscape, highlighting both the absurdity and frightening ubiquity of suggestive marketing in the digital age.

“The signs aren’t meant to help tourists decide where to go next. According to Kelly and Polkinghorne, the project is meant to provoke–to encourage visitors to think about how they make decisions in the age of Amazon. Did you chose to buy this speaker because an ad presented it to you at the right moment? Or because that’s the speaker you really wanted?”

Click here to learn more about the project.

Image courtesy of Scott and Ben or Ben and Scott.

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