IRL Ads Are Taking Scary Inspiration From Social Media
Let’s put something to rest: Facebook isn’t spying through your phone’s microphone to serve you ads for sweatshirts and seltzer water. It probably couldn’t even if it wanted to. But if the social network isn’t listening to you, that doesn’t mean the rest of the world isn’t watching.
Advertisements in the real world are becoming more technologically sophisticated, integrating facial recognition, location data, artificial intelligence, and other powerful tools that are more commonly associated with your mobile phone. Welcome to the new age of digital marketing.
During this year’s Fashion Week in New York, a digital billboard ad for New Balance used A.I. technology to detect and highlight pedestrians wearing “exceptional” outfits. A billboard advertisement for the Chevy Malibu recently targeted drivers on Interstate 88 in Chicago by identifying the brand of vehicle they were driving, then serving ads touting its own features in comparison. And Bidooh, a Manchester-based startup that admits it was inspired by Minority Report, is using facial recognition to serve ads through its billboards in the U.K. and other parts of Europe as well as South Korea. According to its website, Bidooh allows advertisers to target people based on criteria like age, gender, ethnicity, hair color, clothing color, height, body shape, perceived emotion, and the presence of glasses, sunglasses, beards, or mustaches.
We’ve been on the path here since at least a decade ago when the New York Times reported that some digital billboards were equipped with small cameras that could analyze a pedestrian’s facial features to serve targeted ads based on gender and approximate age. Things have progressed as you’d expect: In 2016, another Times report described how Clear Channel Outdoor Americas had partnered with companies including AT&T to track people via their mobile phones. The ads could determine the gender and average age of people passing different billboards and determine whether they visited a store after seeing an ad.
Clear Channel Outdoors says its partnership with AT&T has ended, but it’s now teaming up with Ubimo and Cuebiq, business intelligence firms, to help advertisers map billboards against audience…