Interactive media, especially in outdoor settings, isn’t that new. You can find touch screens on bus shelters or make animated minions dance with your phone. But those are passive, and wait for you to make the first move.
Now there’s a new breed of interactive advertising that is more aggressive. Versions of facial recognition software are being deployed to profile consumers, or maybe cars, and then tailor messaging directly to individuals as they pass.
Mini has deployed billboards in London that flash messages to Mini owners driving by. As a Mini passes by, the digital billboard’s screen displays a personalized comment such as, “Hey red convertible, you look good!” and “Hi there green Mini driver.” The messages are created by sophisticated software that can recognize Minis as they pass. Drivers can also choose to have a photograph taken and displayed with their own message the next time they approach these specific billboard locations.
Israel put a uniquely digital spin on the global “Share a Coke” campaign by turning the country’s most visible billboards into interactive signs that greeted people by name. More than 100,000 consumers downloaded a location-based Coca-Cola smartphone app, which used geofence technology to sense their proximity to the special billboards and transmitted the names to the signs. Approaching consumers received a message alerting them to look up and see their name in lights.
Then there’s Tesco, the world’s third-largest retailer after Walmart and France’s Carrefour. Tesco plans to use facial recognition technology in 450 gas stations around Britain to identify a customer’s gender and approximate age. It will then show an ad on its in-store video screen tailored to that demographic.
The one common denominator in these ads is that they all appear outside the US. Is that because we’re touchier about privacy concerns here? Who knows, but you can bet that if people in other countries accept these types of ads, the technology will find its way to our shores soon enough.