Last week, the city of San Francisco unveiled the world’s largest light display on the Bay Bridge. Eclipsing the lights of the Eiffel Tower, the display is comprised of 25,000 LEDs and was created by artist Leo Villareal. Knowing that the whole thing was going to be a madhouse, my wife and I got there an hour and a half early, found a bar (which was packed) and pushed our way to the front to get a couple glasses of wine while we waited. About fifteen minutes before the show was to start, we paid our tab and headed outside, where a light rain had started falling. Not a big deal. This is San Francisco, we deal with rain all the time. Besides, history was being made.
I recorded the event. About five minutes into the video, you hear me say to Bianca, “We aren’t watching an historic light show, we’re watching people leave an historic light show.” The intricately coordinated movements of the lights couldn’t compete with the simple directional motion of a plaza full of people emptying out in a five minute period. I was stunned.
My first thought was sympathy for the artist. My second thought was, “This wouldn’t have happened one hundred years ago.” If it had been 1913, people would have stood through small hail to watch a spectacle as momentous as this. My third thought was marketing. This is the world we live in, a world where record-setting displays and eight million dollar installations can be overshadowed by a little rain. If that is the case, then what are the stakes for your next product launch or marketing campaign? How far do you have to go to hold people’s attention?