Digital billboards that display different ads depending on who is looking at them were once only found in Minority Report. But a recently launched startup aims to make targeted billboard advertising as ubiquitous as targeted online advertising.
Immersive Labs introduced its smart billboard technology at TechStars‘ Demo Day in New York on Thursday. The software combines video analytics with environmental factors and Twitter and Foursquare information to decide what the best ad to display at that moment is…
If a young man is looking at an ad, for instance, 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 that there’s a sports game going on in the area, it might show a Nike ad instead of a FedEx ad.
The video analytics technology that Immersive Labs uses is not new. Many digital billboards already have web cams that can determine the relative age and gender of people who are looking at them, as well as how long each person stands in front of them or looks directly at them. Advertisers use them to gauge the effectiveness of ads and decide which ads to post in what areas.
Immersive Labs’ innovation is the technology that instantly changes a billboard ad based on this video identification and other enviornmental information. The software learns what works and improves over time.
In a test at a Boulder Prana store, changing ads in this way resulted in a 60% improvement in engagement (as measured by time that people looked at the ads according to the video analytics system). Several pilot locations are in the works including the St. Louis Rams stadium and JFK International Airport. CEO Jason Sosa says he expects to have a product ready to sell on a larger scale in three to six months.
You might remember the scene in Minority Report when ads change to target the people who are walking past them. It’s half amazing, half creepy.
Sosa says he hears the name of the movie every day in relation to the project, but he doesn’t think that Immersive Labs’ smart billboard is similarly creepy. The billboards save anonymous data, but not images.
“If you use a service like Amazon, have a Facebook Page, or even carry a cellphone, there is data being collected about you that is a lot more personal than anything we’re collecting,” Sosa says.