Is It Just Us... Or Is There Something Not Right About These Tube Advert Screens?

Is It Just Us... Or Is There Something Not Right About These Tube Advert Screens?
Photo: Londonist

In May 2019, new, digital advertising screens were unveiled at a number of stations on the Underground network — and they're rather trippy.

Officially known as 'digital ribbon boards', they run the entire length of the escalator, replacing the individual poster boards that most tube escalators still have. But unlike the poster boards, which are positioned at an angle to the escalators, the digital ribbon boards run parallel to the escalator handrail — rendering them at an odd angle to the passenger (an angle of approximately 30°, according to official info).

The old-style posters. Image: Shutterstock

It's taken us until July to experience them in all their functioning glory at London Bridge station... and we are not amused. The angle of the advert leads us to lean slightly backwards to correct ourselves — not ideal on a lofty, moving escalator — and looking up the escalator creates a vertiginous sense of impending doom, with the space appearing to get narrower towards the top.

We suffered a notable feeling of something akin to vection* — a sensation of movement caused by visual stimulation — and had to close our eyes for the rest of the ascent, something which goes against ALL our Londoner intuitions.

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For the purposes of investigation, we went back and rode the same ascending escalator a further four times (apologies to whoever was watching a suspicious person on the CCTV at London Bridge control room that day...). While the effect reduced slightly as we acclimatised to it, we still found ourselves slightly light-headed on the ascent.

We delved a little further, and found that the product specifications for the new digital ribbon screens [PDF] do mention vection as a possible side effect. Although the creative guidelines ask potential advertisers to avoid vection-inducing designs, we think the angle and length of the screens mean that avoiding vection and similar effects entirely just isn't possible.

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So, tell us, is anyone else having trouble on the London Bridge escalators these days, or is it just us? We'd keep an eye out for fellow sufferers... but we're having to close them tight to make it to the top.

*Pedant's note: vection usually refers to the feeling of movement when you yourself are stationary. In this case, we weren't stationary, but the illusion of movement was contradictory to our actual movements. It was just really weird, OK?

Last Updated 29 July 2019