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Much like Marmite, reality TV shows and Scientology, Valentine’s Day divides opinion. Well, for the consumer anyway. Many of us enjoy the day that allows us to be even more romantically and fiscally foolish than normal. But there are always the hardnosed sceptics who, like my perennially single friend Pierce, denounce it as ‘just another gross manifestation of capitalism’ and that there are ‘364 other days in a year to show that you love someone’. Strong words. But largely irrelevant; the GCA’s (The Greeting Card Association) market research showed in 2011 that ‘the average spend [per card] on Valentine’s Day was £2.17 – the highest of all the categories tracked’. Supply and demand is the perfect match.
However no matter how high the demand is for two foot high cards, elaborate Elton John-esque flower decorations and diamonds the size of a baby’s fist, there does appear to be a huge lack of creativity and originality. A tentative-come-rigorous Google search by yours truly proved further testament to that. And it got me thinking: surely in this modern world, with our wealth of variable technology to design, print and deliver, there has to be some new, innovative idea – something so unique and undeniably personal that the recipient of the gesture would be left in no doubt that your heart was truly theirs (at least for the day).
The internet offered me few answers, if any, so I sought advice from a female friend whilst we had coffee in central London. ‘Why not write a song?’ was one predictable idea mooted. My rendition of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ in the corner of Costa quickly nipped that suggestion in the bud. ‘Why not poetry? You write poetry don’t you?’ was the next predictable proposition. I had to remind her it was not the 19th century, and I was not W.B Yeats. Merely telling my girlfriend that ‘I, being poor, have only my dreams, I have spread my dreams under your feet, tread softly because you tread on my dreams’ would just not wash in 2012. I would be called a cheap-skate and most probably see my dreams being punctured by her high-heels.
Then, two things coincided in quick succession to gift me with the idea I’d been searching for. The first thing occurred when I trudged back to Waterloo after my failed coffee brainstorm to catch the tube home. As I descended the escalators, the flickering of the DEPs (Digital Escalator Panels) vividly informed me that War Horse had extended its run at the New London Theatre and that Hugh Laurie thought I should begin to moisturise. These did not immediately help my Valentine’s quest, but I did decide that DEPs were a welcome addition to the dank, dreary Underground walls and a fantastic and alluring example of advertising in the digital age.
The second thing was inside the drupa report I was reading, in order to better familiarise myself with the exhibition. Under article entitled ‘the organic electronics = a new form of package “finishing”’, I stumbled across what I had been searching for – and the one word that had the potential to capture a woman’s heart – ‘nanotechnology’. Oh yes.
With the use of the former, publishing firm Gruner + Jahr were able to put a high-grade video display into the magazine ‘Gala’ for their client Otto. Though readers had to manually press buttons to scan through the visual content, the groundwork was there for my idea: a personalised video that could be integrated into your Valentine’s card (or any card for that matter).
I’m sure it’s not a completely novel idea but it’s a remarkable blend of media formats. The idea that, at some point in the not so far future, I could possibly take full control of the visual and auditory content of all the cards I send excites me. This year’s Valentine’s may come too soon, but I look forward to the day that my significant other will be able receive a card that opens with a video of yours truly singing Marvin Gaye, with smooth film star skin and holding two tickets to go to the theatre to see the tale of a young army recruit’s friendship with a horse during the First World War.