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Tuesday
Dec232008

Advertising Gets Face Lift

Times Square. Piccadilly Circus. Even the turnstiles of the MTA subways in Manhattan.

These places are all highly trafficked areas with little advertising space to spare, and in such congested areas, marketers have tremendous difficulty determining the types of billboards that draw the most attention from audiences.

New technology out of Tokyo offers a solution to better measure the billboard's effectiveness – by utilizing surveillance technology. Slated to debut in a Tokyo railway station in January, NTT Communications is creating a billboard that stares back.

According to IDG News Service, the technology is able to measure how many people look at the billboard in order to determine the ad's ability to catch a consumer's attention.

Mounted just above the billboard, a digital camera coupled with basic facial recognition software will scan crowds and track if a person is looking directly at the advertisement. A second camera will be mounted underneath the billboard to track general crowd size in proximity to the ad. For privacy pundits, NTT is fast to stress that the cameras do not retain personal information about those tracked.

Capital or lowercase letters? Bold or neon color? Video or static image? This innovative approach will better measure how style, location and size aspects affect consumer attention and is the next step in adapting surveillance technology for other purposes.

Dunkin' Donuts actually performed trials a few months back to use facial scanning technology to target advertising to your age, gender and demographic group. Noted by the author, this was the "the first time it has been used by a mainstream advertiser in the US and works in the same way as systems used by law enforcement and emigration agencies to spot criminals in crowds."

Like the Tokyo billboard set-up, Dunkin' Donuts used cameras mounted above a screen to capture a customer's face and analyze facial features such as eye distance, jawline and cheekbone structure with complex algorithms. This information was then used to select ads more attune to the person's characteristics – a process about 85% accurate in tests.

Both Dunkin Donuts and NTT Communications show how surveillance technology can be modified to work for sectors other than security. Whether it is the donut shop around the corne or the train stop nearby, organizations are taking a page from Minority Report to operate more efficiently.

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