“Locative Media” Gives Us 230 Miles of Love

Adrian J Cotterill, Editor-in-Chief

Very interesting article in the Grauniad last weekend, Helen Pidd wrote on Saturday May 3 2008 the “First ‘satcom’ causes laughter all the way up the M6

Basically. comedy using satellite tracking to play appropriate sketches set in the places you drive past!!!

Using a satellite navigation system is rather like undergoing a modern, scalpel-free lobotomy. It requires so little brain power that most people simply put their neurons on sleep mode – and only fire up them up again when their lorry gets stuck down a cul-de-sac and they can only turn around by taking big chunks of the village green with them.

Interesting, then, that this week brought news of a novel way of using a satnav, which seems to encourage drivers to engage with their surroundings rather than simply tell them how to get from A to B and let them daydream (metaphorically, of course) through anything in between.

Called 230 Miles of Love, it is billed as the world’s first “satcom” – a free series of comedy sketches you can download to your satnav or GPS mobile phone, which automatically play at relevant points along the M6. It was made using a programme called Geovative, which allows users to plot a GPS tour that can contain audio, images and text. Though it sounds complicated, it is just a step up from the programme many satnav owners use to alert them to the location of speed cameras.

When the first skit kicked in around Catthorpe, just after junction one of the M6, it was quite a shock – partially because I didn’t think it would work, but mostly because I had the volume turned up to horse-scaring volume, lest I miss anything. After a shaky start, the satcom first made me laugh after junction three near Birmingham, when drivers are weighing up whether to pay the £4.50 for a speedy toll road. Ever the cheapskate, I plumped for the free road, and just as my heart was sinking after spying a sea of brake lights ahead, another sketch kicked in telling me what a terrible choice I had made.

The site-specific gags were always the best – passing a service station I particularly enjoyed an argument about how to pronounce Ginsters (does the “gin” rhyme with bin?).

It was no more of a distraction than listening to a radio play, apart from the odd unexpected squeak and a sketch that seemed to be referring to a sign that I just couldn’t see, even when I craned my neck and scared the car behind.

Though 230 Miles of Love (named after the length of the M6 and available at 230milesoflove.com) is apparently the first attempt at using satnavs for art, it is not the first example of someone using the systems for more than speed camera warnings and route planning.

Last year amateur historian Daniel Taylor launched roadtour.co.uk, offering history guides that drivers could download to their satnavs for information on 600 castles, parklands, battlefields, monuments and stately homes.

The Good Pub Guide has produced a satnav version, which alerts drivers to the best watering holes nearby, and on the TomTom website, users can log in and share their own routes and recommendations, for example the best greasy spoon cafes in the north-west, or the most accommodating hotels for bikers.

All are examples of “locative media”, ideas which aim to exploit developments in “locative technologies” – GPS standalone systems, GPS mobile phones, wireless networks and satnavs.

Back in August 2006 in London, CBS Outdoor (then Viacom) and Posterscope gave us a 14 week campaign for yell.com using GPS technology which was added to its fleet of buses carrying digital LED advertising panels. We wrote then…

The initiative means each digital bus can automatically change its advertising message to match its location across the capital. This dynamic, location-specific advertising allows advertisers the ability to highlight product promotions near their stores or drive sales of slow moving products in individual areas.

The concept of “Locative Media” fits in nicely we feel with Alex Hughes’ recent post for us “Opportunity Location – Look For The Unusual” – if you know where you are at any moment in time you can target advertisements and content much better. Look for these sorts of initiatives to start coming to the likes of both CabVision and Pixman and other mobile networks real soon!

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