New product a real marketing wiz

You’ll be “relieved” to know that advertisers have a way to get their message to you even in a washroom. Every advertiser’s dream is to have a captive audience, and there are a few groups more captive than guys using urinals. Given that most sacred rule of urinal etiquette — never look left or right, just stare straight ahead — you’ve probably got a man’s undivided attention for at least 30 seconds, which is just enough for advertisers to run their spiel by him.

In the past, advertisers have used everything from posters to LCD screens placed above urinals in an attempt to exploit this unique opportunity: a male’s undivided attention. And, let’s face it; it’s not as if they have anything else to do in that kind of situation, unless they are in the habit of bringing a book to the washroom (and, if that’s the case, I’d really like to know how they can hold a book and still use a urinal).

But technology has not stopped at LCDs. Healthquest Technologies, a Long Island, N.Y. company, offers the Wizmark device, which is essentially a talking urinal puck holder — you know, those plastic screens which sit at the bottom of the urinal. Headed up by Dr. Richard Deutsch, the company has been marketing the device, which has been used by clients ranging from MTV to even Molson Breweries here in Canada, for about three years.

The Wizmark is powered by a microprocessor and can feature flashing lights, images and even sound. Yes, you heard me: the urinal puck holder will talk to you. Now, you may ask, “What exactly can a urinal device have to say?” Well, it could be a pitch for a beer company or even a public service announcement urging bargoers not to drink and drive.

Can you imagine the reaction of someone who’s a little tipsy after hearing the puck holder start talking to them? I would think this experience alone might convince some poor guy it’s time to hail a cab and call it a night.

Healthquest hasn’t forgotten the ladies, either. They offer an equivalent device which can be attached to the stall door and features all the bells and whistles of the male version, including scrolling LED messages. Both devices have motion sensors, so they wait til the person is rather, how shall I put this, unable to avoid the message.

In the future, Dr. Deutsch has plans to use RFID technology so that the Wizmark will be able to remember individuals and address them by name (how that is going to actually work is anyone’s guess). Besides, having a urinal call me by name doesn’t hold much attraction for me. I don’t know about you, but I’m already interactive enough with a urinal. LCD screens will soon be added, too, and yes, they plan to offer interactive target games. Gives a whole new meaning to the term “point and shoot”, doesn’t it?

Sure, there could be some abuse of this product. Just think about how it might be used for mud-slinging during political campaigns. On the upside for clients, though, one thing is certain: with the possible exception of frat houses, it’s unlikely these devices run a high risk of theft.

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–Ducharme is editor of Contact him at