Billboards Deliver Targeted Ads By Identifying Your Car

Billboards Deliver Targeted Ads By Identifying Your Car

There is this interesting article I just read on the CBC News website about the way advertisers can target drivers using Vehicle Recognition Technology. This technology recently rolled out in London with the campaign for the All-New Renault Mégane.


CBC Radio technology columnist Dan Misener reports: "If you're stopped at a traffic light near one of these billboards, the camera will capture an image of the front of your vehicle, and computer vision software will identify the type of car you're driving. And then, based on that information, the billboard will change to show you a message targeted to the kind of person the system thinks you are. The whole process only takes about one second."

Misener further reports, "Ocean Outdoor is the company that developed this technology. The current system can tell the make, model and color of your vehicle. It can tell whether you have a sport model. It can also tell things like whether your car uses gas, diesel or is electric, the age of your car, and the manufacturer's stated CO2 emissions."


Ocean head of commercial development Kevin Henry said, "the type of car you drive says a lot about you, and it can help advertisers target relevant ads to you."


However, it has drawn different reactions. Ashkan Soltani, security researcher, said on Twitter, "it's like 'Minority Report'... for you car." Other comments are concerned about distracted driving or 'invasive advertising' or that it creeps them out. I’m in the creeps me out camp.


Actually, it seems to verge on mind control to me. If based on the kind of car I drive, you only target certain ads to me, then sooner or later, am I brainwashed to only want the things you show me?  


We are not sure how this new technology will be received. The article also mentions that other interactive billboards were used back in 2008 in New York City which advertized for the A&E miniseries - The Andromeda Strain. "The billboard had cameras that measured the gender and approximate age of passersby, and how long they looked at the billboard." So they were collecting information, not targeting ads.


"More recently, digital billboards in Toronto's Billy Bishop Airport look back at you as you pass by them and can use facial recognition technology to tell whether you're looking at the ad, and some rough demographic information, like age and gender.  


Kevin Henry defends this technology. “The challenge for this new technology is very much for the creative team to come up with far more subtle and contextual, seamless methods of reaching that consumer without being invasive or intrusive”, he said.


So, in my mind, kind of scary… I said above, kind of creeps me out. How about you? Love to know what you think.

Tags: digital billboards, new technology, targeted advertising