Rotate your ads with a screensaver slideshow

deer alert for danger

Our brains respond very powerfully to pictures because our relationship to visual imagery is much more ancient than our ability to read text, or even to language itself. Our survival as a species depended on accurately scanning our environment for visual cues until very recently. In some places, it still does.

We are wired to notice when the visual landscape changes, in particular, since that shift may be providing information about something that is coming to eat us. In the natural world, change often equals danger. Once we have determined that everything is OK, we no longer need to pay as much attention to our surroundings until something changes again.

We receive thousands of messages from our senses all the time. At any given moment it is necessary to ignore most of that input so we can pay attention to the few things that are important to our survival. Otherwise we would be overwhelmed, and possibly miss those very important survival cues. The trick is figuring out which is which. Advertisers know that. They speak of needing to break through the “clutter” of all the other messages you see, and use tricks to make you think their messages are related to your survival.

The necessity to disregard much of the input we receive creates a potential problem for static ads, such as pictures on the refrigerator, Post-It notes, computer backgrounds or collages. While they are quite effective at first, I’ve noticed that I code these images as “known” pretty quickly and then they have less impact.

Fortunately personal technology comes to the rescue by enabling us to display a rotating slideshow on our computers. This is one of my favorite methods for advertising to myself, because it is both easy and effective. I put digital pictures in a folder on my computer (or a remote location), and then use a variety of different methods to show them to myself for a few minutes at a time. Each time the picture changes, it captures my attention for a moment until my brain registers what it is.

As I mentioned in Refrigerator makeover update and How to download and print pictures, I think it is effective to mix your ads in with other pictures – especially ones that you have very positive responses to.

There are many great methods for showing yourself a slideshow, and I will be covering several of them in depth. We’ll start with two very easy and universally available methods–one for the PC and one for the Mac.

Note: On a Windows computer most software that rotates photos looks in the folder called “My Pictures” to find your photos. For now, move any picture files you want to use for ads into that folder.

How to set up a slideshow in Windows

  1. Press Start.
  2. Choose Control Panel.
  3. Open Display.
  4. Click the Screen Saver tab.
  5. Choose My Pictures Slideshow from the drop-down list under Screen saver.
  6. Click Settings.
  7. There are several choices to make on the “My Pictures Screen Saver Options” dialogue box:
  • How often should pictures change? You can adjust the timing from 6 seconds to 3 minutes. Mine is set on 30 seconds right now.
  • How big should pictures be? You can set the size from 25% to 100% of the screen. The default setting of 90% works well.
  • Use pictures in this folder:
    The default setting is C:Documents and SettingsUsernameMy DocumentsMy Pictures. Use that for now. Later we’ll set up a special folder for your ads.
  • Stretch small pictures. Experiment with this setting – it depends on your pictures.
  • Show file names. No.
  • Use transition effects between pictures. Yes. It emphasizes the change, and that gets your attention.
  • Allow scrolling through pictures with the keyboard. Either way is OK.
  1. When you have finished with all of the settings above click OK to close the “My Pictures Screen Saver Options” dialogue box.
  2. Enter a Wait value. This is how long a period of inactivity (no keystrokes or mouse movements) until the screensaver kicks in. Experiment with this value. I set it a little lower than I normally would if I am using the screensaver to display ads. Mine is currently set at 5 minutes.
  3. Check or uncheck On resume, password protect. This setting depends on the security needs in your environment. I don’t enable it unless I have to, as adding that additional step to unlock my screensaver feels annoying.
  4. Click OK.

How to set up a slideshow on a Mac

  1. Open System Preferences (usually from the Dock, depending on your Mac OS version).
  2. Under Personal, choose Desktop & Screen Saver.
  3. Choose Screen Saver.
  4. Select the folder where you’ve stored your ads.

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  1. Posted July 11, 2007 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Hey, this is an awesome idea. I just did it, but found your site after a googol search (just like I found “Take Back Your Brain” two days ago and implemented some of the ideas we discussed… thanks for your pleasant email!).

    One extra trick I discovered was creating an icon to instantly turn on the screensaver slideshow. These instructions work in Windows XP and should be similar for any Windows operating system:

        1. Click the Start button, and then click Search > For Files or Folders
        2. In the Search Results window, click All file and folders
        3. In the All or part of the file name box, type *.scr
        4. In the Look in box, select Local Hard Drives (C:) or the drive where you have system files stored on your computer.
        5. Click Search
        6. You will see a list of screensavers in the results. Look for the correct one. On my XP machine it was ssmypics.scr
        7. Right click on the correct one and then click Send To > Desktop (create shortcut)
        8. On your desktop, right click on the new icon, click Rename, and change it to Screensaver Slideshow
        9. [OPTIONAL] You can drag this icon to the Windows Quick Launch bar and/or to the Start Menu. (Note, if you’re using the Google Desktop sidebar, you may have to momentarily disable it to drag the icon to the Start Menu.)
        10. Click on the icon to instantly activate your picture slideshow whenever you want!

  2. Geoff
    Posted November 25, 2007 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I use the slideshow screensaver but have one problem. It takes pictures from my picture files, but even if I have rotated and saved the pictures (in Picasa2), it presents them in landscape style only. any comments?

  3. Lynn
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Geoff, rotating your photos to portrait orientation should work. You might try using a different tool to rotate the photos that is more independent from your file system. I’ve been using the free online tool Picnik lately, and like it a lot.

  4. Posted February 17, 2008 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    This kind of post is what makes the web great! My wife was sitting on the couch saying, “I wish we could display the filename on the rotating picture screensaver.” Three minutes later it was done and I didn’t even have to muddle around in Windows ‘Help’.

One Trackback

  • By Get Rich Slowly » Take Back Your Brain! on February 20, 2007 at 5:01 am

    […] There’s a more detailed introduction to the concept at the site, as well as a small but growing list of brainhacks. There’s the post-it note ad, the text message ad, the ad on your computer desktop, the screensaver ad. If you really want to get elaborate, there’s also more information about creating a motivational collage. […]

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