Billboard Advertising Gets Personal

June 04, 2008 07:01 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
In an effort to enhance the effectiveness of billboard advertising, companies are installing cameras in signs that can determine the demographic of the viewers, enabling advertisers to customize messages.

30-Second Summary

Billboard advertisers are looking back at the people who are staring at them.

Although billboards are one of the oldest forms of advertising, companies that sponsor them have had a longstanding problem in trying to determine how many people see a particular ad. Generally, businesses rely on highway reports or foot traffic counts to make estimates.

Advertisers are trying to correct the problem, however, by installing cameras in their billboards to record information about the people reading them. The cameras send data to a central information bank about whether viewers are male or female, how long they look at a sign and their approximate age.

With that information, digital billboards can be changed instantly to better appeal to the person standing in front of the sign at the time.

Some people are a little unnerved by the idea of their image being recorded by a billboard camera. Advertisers, however, say they don’t store the images, so privacy shouldn’t be an issue.

Billboard cameras are part of a growing wave of media innovation. These new developments are “happening in quantity, form and function like never before,” and companies are using them to reach out to their target market, says Greg Anderson of Advertising Age.

However, Anderson encourages businesses to make their advertising decisions carefully. He said that “in a trend-driven media environment, the thing we need to be cautious about is getting too caught up in it without thinking it through.”

Headline Link: ‘Billboards That Look Back’

Historical Context: Outdoor advertising history

Background: Previous personalized billboard campaign

Related Topics: New forms of media, women in advertising

Reference: Internet marketing and privacy


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines