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Sunday
May252008

The Gruen Transfer

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The Gruen Transfer

is a new ten-episode Australian television program on advertising debuting next week on the ABC. What is a Gruen transfer you ask? Why it's the response to designed disorientation cues in retail environments and is named after Austrian architect Victor Gruen who designed the first shopping mall.

The consumer's decision-making consciousness subsides and he or she is more likely to make an impulse purchase because of unconscious influences of lighting, ambient sound and music, spatial choices, visual detail, mirrored and polished surfaces, climate control, and the sequence and order of interior storefronts, etc. The effect is marked by a slower walking pace and glazed eyes.

Hmm...maybe they should just call it The Zombie Effect?

The host Wil Anderson was interviewed last week and had this to say -

Just why do beer commercials, for example, feature four blokes enjoying their schooners? Why not one guy sitting by himself?

"Ah, that's because one guy by himself is an alcoholic loner," Anderson said.

"Two guys drinking together are gay, three apparently just looks wrong, but four ... four is a bunch of guys having a great time.

"It's bizarre, but that's the kind of rule that governs the advertising world and dictates so much of what we see. And that's just one of many, many examples."

In The Gruen Transfer Anderson and a bunch of advertising hucksters will perform autopsies on various campaigns. At Their Site they want you to send your tips on the ads you love, the ones you hate, the nonsensical, mistakes you've spotted or ads you think are just plain wrong. They also invite you to, yawn, yawn, remix their clips to make your own ad which may be broadcast on the show.

Coming back to Victor Gruen - he designed the first fully enclosed mall, Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota, which opened in 1956. The Gruen Transfer can be further explained as the moment at which a mall shopper who has come to buy one thing in one store, "becomes so overwhelmed by the wondrous labyrinth of the place that she or he starts wandering aimlessly, consuming all along the way." Cookie shops pipe out the smell of their baking ovens to pull in customers. Shops often have soft rugs that contrast sharply with the hard tile of the mall's walkways, encouraging customers to stay and shop. Countertops in clothing stores are as large as possible, so as to encourage more purchases.

Putney Swope

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