ONE of my closest friends, who lives on the other side of the country (why is it many of my dearest friends live so far away?), reminded me last week how technology has changed the way we communicate. She phoned me.

"I realised today it’s been months and months since we had an actual conversation," she said. "I mean a real conversation. You know, using old-fashioned speech, where I say something fascinating, you reply, I respond with some of my razor-sharp wit, and you laugh out loud and I really hear it. No "LOL" or "HAHA" but a real outburst of your special brand of snorting, gasping, horse-like laughter — in my ears!"

She was right. We communicate all the time — on iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook. But it had been ages since we’d had a real tête-à-tête.

"How delightfully retro," I thought, after we’d disconnected almost an hour later. So I sent her a WhatsApp: "OMG! IMHO, GR8 chat. TX, your BFF. XOXO." She replied with a smiley face emoticon.

Indeed, technology has made it possible to be more online than offline these days. But sometimes the planets collide. They can even work together, which is what Brazilian advertising agency DM9DDB set out to prove with the Like Ad they created for that country’s largest fashion chain, C&A.

She was right. We communicate all the time — on iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook. But it had been ages since we’d had a real tête-à-tête.

The campaign was launched on Facebook when followers (there are more than 1.6-million) of Brazil’s oldest and most successful celebrity magazine, Contigo! were invited to register to receive an exclusive edition of the publication. Registered readers received special copies. They included a C&A advertisement with an embedded chip that combined technology from Microsoft and telecoms company TIM Brazil. Each chip prelinked to an individual’s Facebook account.

The printed advertisement showed two different C&A outfits, each featuring a "like" button next to it. Readers were asked to "like" the one they preferred. The button lit up as it was pressed or "liked" to indicate they’d voted. At the same time, the chip generated an automatic post on the reader’s Facebook page. The technology also immediately sent the vote to the C&A store at one of Brazil’s largest shopping centres, Morumbi Shopping in São Paulo. Here, the rising numbers of Facebook likes were displayed in real time alongside a display of the two outfits, attracting shoppers’ attention and potentially affecting their buying decisions.

According to C&A Brazil executive Paulo Correa, the brand’s target market is mainly young women who are enthusiastic users of social media, particularly Facebook. By integrating online and offline, the brand is, he says, "getting closer" to its customers and making a place for itself as innovator, not only in fashion but also technology.

It’s not the first time they’ve done it. In 2012, C&A Brazil and DM9DDB created FashionLike, which turned clothes hangers in store into digital counters. Garments were displayed on the chain’s Facebook page and, every time someone "liked" an item, the vote was transmitted to corresponding hangers. Again, the idea was to affect buying decisions by either reassuring those prone to peer pressure that they were making the right choice or encouraging nonconformists to select garments with the lowest number of "likes".

C&A is not the only business to combine digital and real life for marketing purposes. But it is leading the way. Not to be outdone, I’m looking at tech ways of improving this column’s readership. If you like it, let me know and I’ll send you smiley face emoticon. #OrSomething.

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Fri Oct 28 21:25:43 SAST 2016