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Drop Zones 2017

From Futureorientation 5/2007


May 12, 2007: It was a big day for Sony Playstation IV, Biohazard, which was launched globally through the new commercial drop zones in all major cities around the world. Drop zones have become popular marketing channels after legislation prohibited advertising in urban public areas.

By Thomas Geuken and Gitte Larsen

Last night, one thousand Huey helicopters at various points around the globe each dropped a huge net full of 1,000 Playstation IVs at local drop zones. That is how Biohazard was given away free of charge to the first persons to carry them out of the drop zones. The new commercial drop zones are pure marketplaces where companies' new physical products are exposed to the consumer for the first time.

Estimates claim that between 30 and 50 million people attended the global launch. Central Park in New York alone accounted for two million, Trafalgar Square in London for one million, Shinjuku in Tokyo for two million, Tiananmen Square in Peking for another two million. The world metropolises were filled to the brim with people, while the surrounding stands containing games caused experts to predict that Sony would break two world records at the same time, in the categories: fastest selling technology and fastest selling game.

The launch of Playstation IV marks a climax following four weeks of intensive media coverage of the drop zones by national and international channels. At Nørreport in Copenhagen, everything was total chaos among the approximately 100,000 people gathered around the Copenhagen drop zone. The rest of Denmark waited before TV screens, like the rest of the world was doing, looking forward to the battle of the consumers and to interviews with the lucky new owners of Sony's new technological wonder. Sports experts' evaluation of which strategies would be used in the local drop zones had been public knowledge for some time.

Everybody waited in unbearable suspense to get the first glimpse of the helicopters appearing, and even before they could be spotted, the first injuries were being treated. When the helicopters flying supplies could be seen in the night skies, lighted up by bursts of fireworks, a megaphone voice counted down, “3 .. 2 .. 1 .. the drop zone is open.”

Ad-free cities

A drop zone is a clearly marked physical area of the city, a place where companies can place their products for the taking. Drop zones were created as a reaction to the aggressive marketing and advertising that filled public urban space and stole originality from these places. As a measure for making the city ad-free, drop zones are an example of alternative marketing methods, meaning the city can be preserved as the good, community place it is.

Many companies are attempting to create more physical zones, an effort that puts certain problems into perspective. Drop zones are currently the first initiative that heralds these three principles:

    1. The customer seeks the product, not the other way around.
    2. Transparency and predictability in all marketing activities.
    3. Respect for urban space as a public domain.


Drop zones are an example of a purely commercial meeting point. They are a physical thing and are directly approachable places without any kind of buffering interfaces. It is just you and the product, and you are the one to decide whether you will use the zone or not. It gives companies more authentic feedback from consumers, and the credo is, Demo or Die.

The drop zone idea has already inspired companies to create similar zones to meet growing demands on companies from people who want to safeguard control over their own lives and own space. For instance, a number of media have created bad news zones and political organizations have worked with companies to create vision zones.

Rules for drop zones :

    1. A drop zone is a three-dimensional topical space of 10 x 10 x 10 meters.
    2. A drop zone opens its borders at a pre-determined time and stays open up to 20 minutes at a time. All activities in each drop zone are posted on the drop zone international media channel, www.dropzone.global
    3. When the drop zone is closed, all regular activities in the area will resume.
    4. Companies can use a drop zone to launch new products by giving a minimum of 200 units of the product to individuals entering the drop zone.
    5. Companies using a drop zone for a launch of a new product relinquish ownership rights of the products as soon as they are placed in the zone. After that, the drop zone assumes ownership of all products in the drop zone, even though a product may be in the hands of a person.
    6. When a product is carried out of a drop zone, ownership automatically goes to the person holding the product.
    7. When a drop zone is open, all persons are free to enter the area and take all the products they can carry out of the zone.
    8. Launched products must be placed in a symmetric pattern in the middle of the drop zone, so distances from all zones borders to the products are equal.
    9. No product may be re-launched in the same drop zone.

Thomas Geuken is a state certified corporate psychologist and associate head researcher at the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, tg@cifs.dk

Gitte Larsen is a futures researcher and editor of the institute's magazine, FO/futureorientation, gil@cifs.dk

“Drop zones 2017” is one of seven fantastic future narratives in the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Research's latest book, All Dressed Up - but nowhere to go. The seven narratives offer some concrete ideas about directions for your company, and they cover company practices in the areas of: marketing, management, business legitimacy, identity, oral communication, and organization.

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