Public Art, User-Generated Content And Social Media (Un) Thinking

by Jason Falls |

There are 10 interesting new billboards around the city of Louisville. They’re electronic art designs by Argentinean artist Flavia Da Rin. They include a texting number and a keyword. When you text the keyword to the number, you get a web address and a codeword. You browse there and unlock the billboard art on the website. When you get five of them unlocked, you can upload your own art to be judged and perhaps displayed at the Speed Art Museum, Kentucky’s oldest.Flavia Da Rin’s work

Using social media tools to interest and engage the public is in my wheelhouse. I love the integration of user-generated content with contest type activation and a neat tool implementation to make it all work. I hope the Speed Museum’s effort, entitled, “Eyes Wide Open,” will drive interest and traffic, both of the web and foot kind.

But I have to say this might be the most convoluted, too-many-steps program I’ve ever heard of.

Speaking as a casual art fan (I’ve been to the Speed Museum a number of times but not in well over a year.), the billboards will intrigue me because of the art and the mysteriousness of the text number/keyword. I don’t use text very often, but I might try it just for gits and shiggles.

My response is a URL? Okay, I’ll go there and check it out because I’m a web geek and why not? Killer design. I dig it.

Plug in my code … I see the same image as on the billboard. Big deal.

Wait! Now I have to go find four different billboards before I can ever hope to upload my content? And while I’m at it, when exactly do you think I’m going to have time to create my art if I’m traipsing all over hell and tar nation looking for four more billboards? I can ask you that on a staff blog? Okay, that’s cool, but this is taking up a whole lot of my time.

Don’t get me wrong. I want it to work and I’m thrilled that someone in Louisville is trying to engage an audience using non-traditional and emerging methods. But without in-depth research I can tell you the art crowd, while text and web friendly, is infinitely impatient and aren’t normally producers of said art. The art producers don’t have the time or interest in contests and games. They’re busy being artists, hanging out in coffee shops and hating commercialism so much they don’t look at billboards.

Yes, I’m exaggerating and generalizing to prove a point, but there’s a key tenant of marketing thought that is missing from the Speed Museum’s equation: Never make your audience take more than one step to reach your message.

I hope I’m wrong. It certainly is an interesting exhibit with a social media twist to it and that can’t be bad. But if the exhibit organizers think they’re going to attract enough people with enough patience and determination to pull it off, I think their eyes are wide shut.

Now more than ever, I want you to disagree with me. The comments are yours.

IMAGE: From Speed Art Museum website.

THANKS: To Michelle Jones at Consuming Louisville for the tip.

[tags]public art, user-generated content, UGC, Speed Museum, art, Louisville, social media programs, Flavia Da Rin[/tags]


About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).