Giant London billboard knows your car, even how you’re feeling

Many drivers and pedestrians have become used to tuning out billboard advertisements. But what if those billboards could serve up ads to you based on your vehicle, or even how you’re feeling? One London billboard is trying just that.

In London’s Piccadilly Circus, a massive new billboard is joining the trend of targeting individual passersby; serving ads to both pedestrians and drivers. The digital 2,600 square foot LED screen—which is around the size of four tennis courts—features facial and car recognition technology that targets people with hidden cameras.

The system can target advertisements based on an individual’s age, gender, mood and the vehicle they drive. Brands are then pre-programmed to these triggers. It also provides free Wi-Fi, which researchers have warned could be used to monitor and capture your online behaviour. Landsec, the company that manages the screen, claims that the London billboard won’t collect or store any personal details of passersby.

This giant spying screen is replacing six separate ones that used to each represent a different brand. Every ten minutes, one ad will fill the entire screen for 30 seconds; the first brands to debut will include Samsung, Coca-Cola, Hyundai, and L’Oreal. The majority of the time, however, the screen will be split up into the traditional six sections; it will stream live video, sports results, and feeds from various social media platforms. Landsec’s collecting of real-time data on nearby people potentially offers a big opportunity for marketers to serve highly relevant and personalized ads via the digital billboard.

Targeted advertising

The London billboard isn’t the first attempt at targeting passersby though; marketers have been playing the technology for years. In 2013, BMW’s Mini used human spotters on the side of the road to manually trigger targeted call-to-actions to BMW drivers from digital billboards further down the street.

There are limits on what people will accept. Cameras using visual recognition technology could feel invasive to some consumers, even though Landsec said it will not store the data.

In the case of marketing, the company is smartly focusing on interactivity in its massive London billboard. In fact, a recent study by IPG’s Magna found that interactive video ads are 32% more memorable than non-interactive ads. They also drive 9x higher impact on consumers’ purchase intent.

How far is too far? Take a look at this billboard that makes you wonder if it’s obscene by accident or intent.


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