Percussion Obsessions – The Sound Of Distant Drums

Advertising should be a multi-sensory experience rather than a one dimensional prod.  Those of us who have watched the costume drama based on the life of Harry Selfridge in London will have acknowledged the reality that the greatest advertisers are those who are prepared to innovate.

It was Harry who opened London’s first department store in the then unfashionable western end of Oxford Street and invented (although not many people know it) the oft-used catch cry “”Only ___ Shopping Days Until Christmas“..

Had he still been alive, Selfridge would have been proud to have been associated with another more recent British revolution in advertising. An English company, Novalia, have come up with a drum-kit poster that you play with the tips of your fingers.


The poster is produced on interactive paper with conductive inks, rendering a variety of drum sounds – from cymbals to snare, with the odd tom tom beat thrown in for good measure. As an ex-rock drummer myself I am delighted with this development although others who value their peace and quiet might be less than ecstatic.

The inventor of the process, former sheep herder and physicist Kate Stone, has a PhD in electronics from Cambridge University and is described by TED as a “Shepherd of electrons”.

“I love paper, and I love technology,” says Kate, who’s spent the past decade working to unite the two. Her experiments combine regular paper with conductive inks and tiny circuit boards to offer a unique, magical experience. To date, applications include a newspaper embedded with audio and video, posters that display energy usage in real time, and the extremely nifty paper drum kit and set of DJ decks she demonstrates on stage.” TED Talk.

So the ‘sound of distant drums’ emanating from a subway, bus shelter or shopping mall near you is about to become a reality.  It could well be the ‘next big thing’ in advertising, with perhaps a set of suitably branded earplugs thrown in for good measure.

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About thedigitalconsultant

Roger Smith is an international, digital consultant and former British Council Director of Online Operations within the East Asia region. http://thedigitalconsultant.blogspot.com
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