Daily Dose of iQ: Billboards that Target You

Apr 19, 2011 — Anne Forkutza

On April 16, Sarah Kessler of Mashable.com reported on a new startup that is bringing the future -- targeted billboard advertising -- to present day.

What this link is about: Imagine a world where billboards were smart enough to show you content based on who you were, what you looked like, and where you were standing. Sounds like a scene from Minority Report perhaps? Well thanks to Immersive Labs, a New York-based advertising agency aiming to "make digital designs smarter," this may be closer to reality than we think.

Immersive Labs has created smart billboard technology, whose software combines video analytics with environmental factors and Twitter and Foursquare information to determine the best ad to display at any given moment. For example, if a young man is looking at an ad, the billboard will know to show an aftershave ad instead of a tampon ad. If the room is loud, it might not show an ad that has an audio component. If Twitter or Foursquare data indicate there’s a sporting event nearby, it might show a Nike ad instead of a FedEx ad.

Why it's interesting: The concept of smart billboards is not new. Many digital billboards already have webcams or infrared sensors that can read customer attributes such as gender and height. At NRF 2011, a few of us from iQmetrix got to see this technology in action at the Intel booth. We saw an example of a Japanese vending machine displaying different drinks based on whether you were male or female, as well as an Adidas digital wall displaying male or female shoes based on who was standing in front of the wall.

Regardless of the format, it's eff-ing cool. What's extra interesting about Immersive Labs' smart billboards is that they use Twitter and Foursquare data to further learn about a diplay's surrounding environment.

What it means to me and my work on the XQ project:

Smart billboards may be relevant for drink choices, clothing and other items that can clearly be pitched as "male products" or "female products." But for phones? Would we display iPhones in Stream and Browse for "hipster-looking customers" and BlackBerrys for "business-looking customers?" Wouldn't that be mildly insulting? Smart billboard technology would need to go beyond just superficial facial recognition for it to be relevant in the mobile retail space. Think if Stream or Browse could recognize Jane Doe as soon as she came up to the screen. Then based on her purchase history, how long she had left in her term, and calling behavior, Stream and Browse could recommend related products, plans, and add-ons, just for her. Oh and of course we would have a sexy female voice that would welcome her back to the store :) The future of XQ? Exciting times to come!

Topics: Retail Operations, Wireless Trends, Mobile Industry, Retail Marketing

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