US Billboards Using Technology To Track What People Do When They See An Ad

US Billboards Using Technology To Track What People Do When They See An Ad

The US has gone all ‘Minority Report’ on us and created a new collection of billboards that use data from mobile phones to track what people do when they pass an outdoor ad.

Hannah Edensor
Posted by Hannah Edensor

The technology was created by Clear Channel Outdoor Americas, according to Business Insider, and while it’s set to be highly useful for advertisers, not everyone is a big lover of it.

Senior vice president of research and insights at the outdoor advertising arm of iHeartMedia told the New York Times it hits a little too close to home in replicating the Tom Cruise flick Minority Report, where customised ads speak directly to Cruise’s character.

“I’m not sure it’s a great user experience and it is a little creepy, to be honest. With a mass-medium like Out-Of-Home, a better use is to target general patterns of consumer groups, not the individual,” he told the site MediaVillage.

Clear Channel Outdoor, which owns a truckload of billboards across the country, says it will combine them with data and analytic tools, known as Radar, to test whether an outdoor advertising campaign was kicking goals or not.

You can see how it works here:

So far, it’s partnered with the shoe company Toms, and discovered that users’ awareness of the charity-minded company increased. This was measured by whether users looked it up online or found the brand in a shoe store following their passing of a billboard.

The company says all information sourced is anonymous and makes it impossible to identify a single user, and is just repurposing the same data that mobile advertisers have been using already to display ads on users’ phones.

Naturally, the issue of privacy came up.

“Given the sensitive nature of location data, all parties involved in Clear Channel’s Radar service should provide clear and comprehensive privacy policies and should disclose detailed information about their data-sharing relationships with other companies,” wrote Sen. Al Franken (D) of Minn. in a letter to Clear Channel Outdoor’s chief executive on Monday.

And privacy advocates claim that technology such as the billboards could catch consumers who were unaware they were being tracked.

“People have no idea that they’re being tracked and targeted,” executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy Jeffrey Chester told the Times. “It is incredibly creepy, and it’s the most recent intrusion into our privacy.”

Image: AP/Richard Drew / Business Insider