The ‘quiet back there’ app – or harnessing the Passback Effect

On November 29th, 2010, posted in: different perspective, reports and case studies by 2 Comments

A couple of weeks ago, while snooping around on twitter, I noticed a hashtag for OMMA Mobile – a conference from the mobile marketing and advertising world. As I watched the tweets come in someone mentioned the ‘quiet back there’ experience. Parents hurling their smartphones over their shoulders to occupy the kids in the back seat of a minivan, a behaviour more commonly referred to as the “passback effect“.

I must admit, I preferred the ‘quiet back there’ app. The reason – I’m of an age where many of my friends have at least one or two booster seats in the back of either an estate car or an MPV. I’m also small enough that I often end up sandwiched in the back seat of said MPV’s on a Sunday afternoon, inevitably on the way to a National Trust property or a Pub with good facilities for Children. This is when I learnt that the Whiteboard app on my iPhone could keep 2-11 year olds busy for approximately 15-20 minutes. As a result of my activities three of my friends bought iPhones in 6 months solely based on the ‘quiet back there’ possibilities of the technology. A quick review this week and all of them have bought at least 4 apps for exactly this purpose.

When we started developing our report, it was this experience that was the heart of what we were considering. A couple of things were recognisable immediately.

The entertainment grenade

A parents smartphone is offering short term distraction while standing in line, in the car or in a cafe.  However, it’s worth identifying that the need here is not provide ‘education’ but to occupy and entertain for a quick 15 minutes. If there is  an element of learning, well that’s great too. My question would be could cultural organisations own this space? Would this high emphasis on entertainment as opposed to learning be seen to be appropriate?

Changing behaviours

We’re always looking for behaviours that are happening outside the museum space to see if we can harness them for the inside. So when I noticed friends had started to download apps specifically for their kids, my attention was piqued. And they’re clearly not alone — over 60% of the top 25 selling educational apps in the AppStore are aimed at pre-school children.

This is an audience who are looking  to purchase suitable experiences for their little ones, to the point of even changing their device. That’s a very strong indicator of how real the need is – can cultural heritage organisations harness that opportunity to create engaging experiences for their family audiences. Perhaps the much talked about pre-/post-visit activity maybe?

But there’s already an app for that… (er, sorry)

I was using the  ‘Whiteboard‘ app, I’ve also experimented with the camera apps  and audioboo as well. All worked either as a playful activity or with a set challenge attached (i.e. photographic eye-spy). At FGW, we’ve been interested for a while in which existing apps can offer cultural organisations a chance to engage family visitors. An opportunity to set context and creatively frame an experience without re-inventing the wheel and developing a new app with all the marketing costs associated.

2 Responses to “The ‘quiet back there’ app – or harnessing the Passback Effect”

  • What strikes me about this little bit of parent-child interaction is how comfortable very small children are with mobile technology and how it is shaping their expectations and intuitive sense about knowldege and learning. Great post.

  • Christy says:

    At what age are iPhone educational activities effective? My 19 month old just pushes to see what happens, and not try to do any one of the activities I downloaded. I note you did say ages 2 to 11 in your post.

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