Outdoor advertising isn’t a new marketing method. In fact, it’s been around since ancient times. The earliest outdoor advertising methods were chiseled on monuments in ancient cultures- including in Ancient Egypt! Hieroglyphics have been found describing laws of the country. Travelers were meant to stop and learn the rules of the civilization before entering. In this way, it can be described as an early form of outdoor advertising.
However, actual billboards as we know them didn’t evolve for many more centuries. Let’s take a look at a brief history of the evolution of outdoor advertising and where the industry is headed today.
Early Forms of Advertising
Many people have heard of the famous Gutenberg press. Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable type printing in 1450. He was most likely influenced by primitive examples from China, Japan, and Korea. These traveled by traders along the Silk Road to Europe cultures. His inspired invention, the Gutenberg Press, rang in modern forms of advertising as we recognize them today!
In particular, handbills became very popular. Handbills, which were exactly what they sound like, were leaflets with advertising information handed out. They can be likened to early versions of newsletters!
In 1796, the first major form of outdoor advertising emerged- the illustrated poster. Using lithography, companies could create large numbers of posters for advertisement to be hung in storefronts, store windows, and even street corners.
Primitive versions of billboards have been in use for centuries. The most common example would be posted by trails to notify travelers of an inn ahead. Travelers on foot, horseback or being pulled in a carriage would learn how far the inn was ahead, as well as what they had to offer in the way of amenities.
Posted signs along the roadside served the purpose to aid travelers to find food and shelter rather than advertising many types of goods that are found today. Widespread advertising using billboards didn’t become popular until the invention of the car.
Automobiles & Outdoor Advertising
As automobiles were created and boomed, pioneering marketers realized that there was a prime opportunity to use long stretches of road to advertise products. After all, automobiles encouraged travel and mobility. This, in turn, created a need to inform travelers of what they could expect from landmarks, attractions, and hospitality on the road ahead.
Advertisements lauding local sights, national parks, and curiosities sprang up just before towns in an attempt to encourage travelers to stop and spend their money in town. Restaurants and hotels quickly followed suit, creating a real demand for enticing designs that drew travelers into a town.
Bigger Becomes Better
Billboards and outdoor advertisements had to grow larger and larger over the years for an interesting reason. As motor vehicles evolved and gained speed, advertisers needed to make their billboards bigger in order to be seen from further away! If advertisers didn’t make their billboards big enough, the motorist would zoom past their sign without being able to read it!
However, bigger didn’t mean better to everyone – in particular, the United States Government. In the 1960’s, President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced the Highway Beautification Act, which prevented billboards from overtaking America’s roadways. This legislation was passed in an effort to check outdoor advertising companies from blocking America’s scenic landscape with various advertising.
Digital Technology Changes the Game
Prior to digital technology, meticulously handpainted billboards were the norm. However, beginning in the 1990s, computer-painted and printed materials became standard. More recently in the first decade of the 2000s, LED lighted and completely digital billboards have become popular. Technology has allowed smart sensor billboards or even billboards that scroll through several images in a minute.
As the industry continues to evolve, more unique effects can be expected in outdoor advertising. 3D elements and visually engaging details have emerged. For example, the famous cows on the Chik-Fil-A signs that “graffiti” billboards to plead consumers to “eat more chikin.” The sides of buildings and skyscrapers are cleverly used for enormous posters and advertisements (such as the now iconic Times Square!) Full vehicle wraps have placed outdoor advertising on the sides of buses, cars, and even planes.
Smart sensor technologies and facial recognition technologies have created bus stop advertisements that interact with viewers. From games to targeted advertisements with videos and audio, outdoor advertisements have evolved to capture consumer attention in a multitude of different types of digital billboards.
Outdoor Advertisement is Still Evolving
It seems that every day, new innovations and methods for advertising outdoors occur. Driven on by market competition, development of new capabilities and polishing of existing processes makes the sky the limit with outdoor advertising.
Digital billboards have revolutionized the billboard industry. Unlike the traditional billboards, digital billboards are able to display several ads in a matter of seconds. Furthermore, they create eye-catching visual effects that aren’t possible on traditional billboards.
The technology behind digital billboards wasn’t widespread until the turn of the 21st century. That’s because the expense of the electronics made it too expensive for most billboard advertisers to adopt. However, advancing technology and lower electricity costs eventually won the day.
Fun fact: Lamar Outdoor Advertising was the first to install a digital billboard in 2001.
The entire billboard wasn’t entirely digital but was still groundbreaking for its time. Four years later, the market for digital billboards officially boomed.
Even though digital billboard technology is fairly new, the technology is relentlessly pushing on and even the first Lamar billboard looks archaic compared to today’s different types. Here are some of the different types of digital billboards that have evolved over the last decade.
Digital signs are a good option for outdoor advertising for spaces that don’t require a standalone billboard. Digital signs can take the place of traditional store signs, mounted on the side of the building, at the entrance to a parking lot or underneath an existing sign.
Digital signs allow buildings to be seen from the roadway, increasing the flow of foot traffic. Digital signs are attractive for their versatility and relatively low cost. For shopping plazas and marketplaces, this makes economic sense as several digital signs can be mounted, each showing a different advertisement at regular intervals.
Digital billboards mounted on mobile trailers are an excellent option for tailgates, conventions, markets and more. This type of digital billboard is attractive because it can be moved to multiple locations with relative ease.
Current technologies allow these mobile options to be seen from 100 feet away, making a perfect eye-catcher for marketing at crowded outdoor locations. It’s important to note that these cannot be operated while in motion.
Digital billboards are a common sight along the freeways of the world. These brilliant displays can be seen for a mile away on lonely American roads at night, warning travelers of food, retail locations, and local sights along the way. Furthermore, they are popular in metropolitan cities like Los Angeles and most famously, New York. Brightly colored digital billboards display posters, marquees, videos, and advertising campaigns over Times Square.
Digital billboards are a popular option for most businesses, with LED capabilities not only offering multiple vivid design options but also effects that are visually engaging. Digital capabilities also offer the opportunity for high-resolution images, video, and effects.
Smart billboards can be implemented anywhere, and are truly the future of digital advertising. From billboard advertisements that are activated when a car is a certain distance from the board via sensors, to a unique “coughing man” advertisement recently used in Sweden. Through the means of smoke detectors in the billboard, a man will appear and begin coughing as if from the secondhand smoke. Then an antismoking campaign begins to play, as well as ads for nicotine patches and other smoking cessation assistance.
Other examples include facial recognition technology and interactive features that enable games to be played. Smart Billboards are a dynamic form of digital billboards that allow passerby to interact both with an advertisement and its parent brand. In addition, smart billboards can be erected anywhere, from bus stops to shopping centers and anywhere in between.
A company on Shark Tank is working on introducing technology to play digital advertisements on parked car windows. A passerby walking the streets will see targeted advertisements projected onto stationary car windows Though this type of digital advertisement is not available yet, test market runs in several prominent American cities indicate this could be the latest wave of the future.
This is an example of utilizing passive platforms to create targeted messages. Furthermore, it is part of the ingenious wave of high-tech advertising that pushes the digital billboard industry forward at breakneck speed.
The billboard is changing. The use of computer screens as advertisements has been around for a while but in recent years billboard-size digital displays have reached a new level of affordability. Digital billboards aren’t just for high-end brands with big pockets; it’s time for everyone to consider whether or not digital billboards are right for their marketing campaign. Digital billboards offer a range of benefits over their traditional counterparts and in this article, we’ll look at each specific advantage of digital billboard advertising with some examples that show the power of this cutting-edge advertising tool.
Digital billboards can update in real time
Thanks to the internet people have different expectations about how advertising works. They spend hours staring at screens that display advertisements tailored to them. Ads today know our names, our locations, and what we’ve been looking for. Digital billboards might not be able to reach this level of customization, but they can still utilize the latest technology to deliver a timely message. This is one of the major advantages of digital billboard advertising.
Look at this digital billboard advertisement from Target. It’s a powerful reminder of allergy season that utilizes the latest pollen count. It’s a brilliant combination of useful information and powerful marketing that is sure to stand out in a world flooded with advertisements.
Digital billboards can display time-sensitive messages
Have you ever gotten excited by an ad for an event only to realize that its time had already come and passed? Many companies waste money paying for advertisements that will outlive the events they are advertising. Digital ads can cut down on waste by automatically switching over at certain times.
Take this advertisement for the TV show “Hell’s Kitchen” as an example. Traditionally advertisements for a weekly TV show would have to run all week long, even though the show wouldn’t be on six out of the seven days. But with digital billboards, a TV channel advertising on a billboard can make sure that it always advertises the shows that viewers can watch immediately after they see the ad. It’s a great way to increase the ad’s return on investment.
The same digital billboard can display two entirely different advertisements just minutes apart from one another
A traditional billboard can only display one advertisement at a time, and it can take hours of work to transition from an old ad to a new message. This isn’t the case with digital billboards. A digital billboard can be loaded up with multiple messages that it cycles between on a set schedule. Companies that advertise on digital billboards can buy the perfect amount of advertising for their needs and budgets. This means that there’s no reason to pay extra to monopolize an entire billboard if you think you can do just as well sharing the space. Say goodbye to one-size-fits-all ad buys!
Digital billboards can convey a sense of urgency
Most people are procrastinators by nature. If they can put something off, they will. Companies lose sales all the time because of this. Customers might plan on making a purchase, but they decide to wait until later and end up never spending a dime. To overcome this tendency it’s important to create a sense of urgency, and digital billboards are uniquely equipped for this task.
Just look at this advertisement for Dodgers Baseball. It has a timer ticking down, which can have a big psychological impact on those who pass. It reminds them that time isn’t unlimited, that they need to act quickly if they don’t want to miss their chance to see a game. A traditional billboard might be updated every day, but a digital billboard has the advantage of ratcheting up the urgency with updates by the hour, minute, or even second.
Digital billboards can engage with customers on a grand scale
One of the best ways to ensure repeat business is by building a deeper connection with your customers. In the past billboards used to be a highly impersonal type of advertising but digital billboards can facilitate interaction between you and your customers. Just check out this campaign by Pattison Onestop and Spacing Magazine. They asked for people to tweet out love letters to Canadian cities and then broadcast those letters across the cities. Traditional billboards might have been able to display a single message, but the digital billboards could display hundreds of messages a day.
People got to see their own words on billboards across the country, news outlets got a patriotic story to tell, and Pattison’s shopping centers gained plenty of fantastic PR. It’s the sort of marketing-win that digital billboards enable.
The world is moving quickly and billboards need to keep up with the change of pace
Information travels faster than ever in the age of smartphones. Traditional static billboards were invented in a world where news traveled at the speed of the newspaper. Today even 24/7 cable news channels are too slow for media consumers who are hooked into a constant stream of social media messaging. If you want to keep up in this environment, then you need the sort of flexibility that digital billboards can offer.
It is a common misconception held by many people that billboards are an “outdated” and “old school” form of advertisement. Oftentimes television ads, websites, or even social media platforms are pushed as the most current and relevant forms of advertising. Despite this, billboards have not gone away and have not become any less useful for spreading a message. Instead, the medium of physical billboards has advanced from new technology becoming available. We’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of billboard technology examples which show some of the options which are possible and how they can be used effectively.
Digital Screens And The Power Of Movement
Screen technology has changed the world. From televisions, to phones, to computers- screens are everywhere. High quality digital screens allow for moving, non-static video to be displayed virtually anywhere, and billboards are no exception.
The ability to have a short video play on a billboard gives advertisers so much more power when it comes to both grabbing an audience’s attention and sending a message.
Video billboards effectively manage to combine all of the strengths of a television ad with the benefits of physical billboards.
Static vs Dynamic Content
What’s more is that digital billboards also make it easy to display and change content. Instead of having to worry about the costs associated with the manual labor of actually putting up a billboard, the content can instead be sent directly to the billboard. Digital billboards are also capable of changing between multiple messages, allowing advertisers to alternate between different ads. This has allowed for digital billboards to completely change their pricing format given that such billboards can now host many more advertisement slots at once.
Individual ads are also able to display content which may be time sensitive or reliant upon outside data. While in a traditional billboard the message must be static and hold true at any time during all conditions, the message on a digital billboard can change depending on the time of day, weather conditions, or some other factor.
When messages are able to be tailored around certain fluctuating factors, many opportunities for very convincing marketing strategies open up.
People Looking At Billboards, Billboards Looking At People
While billboards are things to be looked at, what if a billboard were to do some looking of its own? Technology these days does not stop when it comes to displaying dynamic information, as digital cameras and pattern recognition make it possible for billboards to identify trends within a crowd and change their information accordingly.
While this type of functionality might sound far fetched, one such example of it includes the Picadilly Lights display in London. On top of having a huge display space, with the ad’s 4K LED screen being the size of two professional basketball courts, the ad is able to detect ages, emotions, and vehicles in order to adjust the content it shows.
As digital ads online have taught us, the best advertisements are targeted. Being able to leverage ad targeting with billboard technology continues to escalate the strength of billboards as an advertising medium.
Big Screens For Big Events
The huge size and quality of new digital screens allow them to be incredibly versatile and multi-purposed. In addition to displaying ads with dynamic content on them, it is also possible to leverage the space in order to display important or popular events, such as a baseball game or concert. Those wanting to draw people to a public space with their event will find their efforts greatly enhanced by making use of such digital billboard technology.
Humans have spent all of history protecting themselves from dangerous predators, but one specific animal brings fear into the hearts of people all over the globe. There are ways to fight back against this creature, but no one knows how to stop it completely. Because of a number of factors, it’s becoming a major hazard to the health of the public.
But, in the most unsuspected of places, a solution was found.
A billboard is saving the day in the global battle against mosquitos.
Basics About the Mosquito Killer Billboard
The billboard itself looks normal enough at first sight, but it has a little more than your average sign. It is white with cut out letters, and it contains a message that says “This billboard kills hundreds of Zika mosquitos every day.”
There is some sophisticated machinery built inside of it, and that’s what gives it some teeth. First, it has internal containers that emit carbon dioxide and lactic acid into the air. These are attractive to mosquitos because they’re the same scents that come from humans, so the insects flock to the source. And, it’s so strong that mosquitos will come from distances of up to 4 kilometers (2.48 miles) away.
Once the little animals get closer, they notice the fluorescent lights inside the sign, and that makes them even more interested. Then, they have a little entrance that’s easy for them to find, so they fly right in. Unfortunately for the insects, it’s not so easy to get out. They remain trapped until they die of dehydration.
Why Mosquitos Are a Problem
Mosquitos are a big problem around the world since they act as mini carriers of disease, and they’re extremely hard to stop. This really came to light in 2015 when a major outbreak of the Zika virus began in Brazil, and the world took notice since so many people would be traveling there for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Since the virus can cause birth defects in babies born to mothers who have had it, it was significant enough to be called a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” by the World Health Organization.
The Agencies Behind the Billboard
When creating outdoor advertising, it isn’t normal to make a trap for a dangerous animal. It’s common to try to promote causes related to public health, but they aren’t usually this direct and efficient. However, the creativity that comes out of advertising companies seems to be never ending. This whole project was created by Periscope and NBS, two agencies in Brazil. With the threat of the Zika virus causing so much trouble, they made this solution and taught others how to do the same.
Giving the Design for Free
One very noteworthy part of this billboard is how the agencies who created it gave away the instructions on how to make the mosquito killer billboard. They went so far as to build a website that contains detailed information on how it operates, as well as how to make one yourself.
This was so important because it took it from a publicity stunt and turned it into a gift for humankind. Following a similar strategy can really serve as an inspiration for other organizations to do something similar. And, they can use this as an example if they need to justify investments they’re making in their own projects.
Not the First Helpful Billboard
A billboard was built in 2013 that helped a major problem in Peru. The area suffers from very low amounts of drinking water because there’s hardly any rainfall. What water the people are able to get is often polluted, but there is often a humidity level over 95%. Seeing a problem and a potential solution, an ad agency partnered with a local university to see what they could do. They ended up creating a billboard that collected water from the air, purified it, and stored it into tanks. Then, people were able to come with bottles and collect the drinking water for their families. It didn’t quite solve the entire issue, but it was a creative solution that helped a lot of people.
Are You Able to Solve a Health Problem?
Even if you don’t think that mosquitos are a major threat, do you have any problems you’ve thought about solving? If so, you don’t necessarily have to do it alone. Sometimes someone has already come up with a solution (like what has happened in this case), and other times you will be able to find help with it. Organizations that are fighting against diseases and other hazards on an everyday basis are usually more than happy to help you turn a dream into a reality.
Let’s try to save the world, one billboard at a time.
From a young age, McDonald’s does a great job of pushing its image of a playful wonderland right into your head. That works pretty well, but eventually you grow up, and Ronald McDonald becomes less and less interesting as the years pass.
But, it’s not only children who like to play. Adults may be too shy to order a Happy Meal, but they enjoy having some games in their life.
A few years ago, the fast food chain managed to get full grown adults to unleash their inner child. They even managed to make it happen in a crowded square.
But, how did they do it?
A Playground for All Ages
To set the scene, take yourself back to the year 2011, and imagine you’re walking through the streets of Stockholm, Sweden. Now, look up at the giant Golden Arches on a billboard, and pull out your smartphone.
Are you ready for a game? It’s not difficult. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty similar to the game of Pong. The digital display will bring up a video game in which a ball starts bouncing from one side to the other. Using your phone, you move a paddle up and down so the ball doesn’t escape.
Who wouldn’t want to give it a try?
The Details of the Game
This stunt was put together for McDonald’s by DDB Stockholm, and it was quite a hit. Many people participated because it was so easy to do, and if they played well enough, they could win a prize.
The game didn’t require an app download or any other complicated procedure. All people had to do was go to the website that the billboard advertised, and it used their location data to make sure they were actually there.
Consumers got to play, and they had to survive for 30 seconds. If they did, they were rewarded with a coupon for free food at one of the nearby restaurants.
Lack of App Was Key to Success
One of the major reasons this campaign was successful was because of how simple it was. When doing something like this today, many people will instinctively decide to ask consumers to download an app to play along. They even try to build that app in a way that the users can take it with them and play later, and it’s seen as a great reminder of the brand.
While that method can work, it causes a major entry barrier to anyone thinking about participating. That was the real beauty of this one. There weren’t any downloads necessary, and the players didn’t have to register. They just visited the website, played the game, and (hopefully) won.
Then, they popped into a McDonald’s to enjoy their delicious trophy.
Gave Unexpected Interaction to Customers
Another great feature of this campaign was the interactivity it offered. Billboards are often used to advertise a competition or communicate results of something happening, but they’re very rarely the actual game board. Good signs are passively seen and melted into the subconscious of the potential consumers, but it’s proof of a great idea when people want to stop and actively discuss it with each other.
An additional clever aspect of this plan was the call to action that was disguised in the form of a prize. Instead of just suggesting that customers stop by for lunch, they gave them the incentive of free food. They may or may not buy lunch during that visit, but they’ll remember the location (and hopefully the good experience they had) next time they’re in the area.
Also, bragging to friends about winning something for free is always a great way to encourage word-of-mouth communication.
Do You Use Mobile in Your Campaigns?
If you haven’t ever tried integrating mobile experiences in your campaigns, this is a great example of why you should. Don’t forget that it can go far beyond mobile ads or having an app that makes it easier for your customers to interact with your company. Smartphones are a major part of life in the 21st century, so consider them just as strong of a medium as billboards, radio/TV, print, and online channels.
Not The First McDonald’s Billboard Game
A year before this billboard happened, the same agency created a similar sign for the burger chain. It was less interactive because it only required customers to snap a photo of fast moving foods, and they could show that for a real version of the item for free in a local McDonald’s. As mobile technology improved, the fancier version was possible. Just imagine what we can do now!
Have you ever had a similar idea for your business? At bMedia Group, we love to be a part of making these amazing concepts come to life, and we’d be happy to talk about how to turn your creative thoughts into a reality.
Do you notice billboards on the side of the road when you’re driving? Most people do, but they’re far more effective if they’re something you can relate to instead of a generic ad. However, this can be quite a challenge for advertisers because of the diverse backgrounds of drivers going past the signs. There’s no way that they can make a billboard that will speak specifically to each driver and blast the right message.
Or, is there?
Yes, there have been a few different times that billboards got a little bit personal with the drivers looking at them!
The Chevy Malibu Is Better Than Your Car
This campaign was one that advertised the Chevy Malibu automobile, but it didn’t simply stop at showing a nice message with an image. Instead, the digital billboard had special technology to register who was watching it, and then it responded in a way that would speak specifically to that audience. So in place of the generic ad, it would directly compare the Chevy to the type of car that the person was driving. For example, it would tell drivers who have a Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, or Hyundai Sonata what better gas mileage (or other benefits) they would have in a Malibu.
The campaign was put together as a joint effort between Posterscope USA (an out-of-home communications agency) and Lamar Advertising Company (an outdoor advertising company). It was placed in New Jersey, Dallas, and Chicago, and the timing of the display was key to the whole process. It would change the display with adequate time for the driver to see it as they passed, and then it would change back to the original image.
Also, it’s important to know that the system didn’t save any information about the drivers!
It’s Not Always about Cars
This type of technology can target drivers, but it doesn’t necessarily have to talk about cars. There’s another similar example that was used in London, but it dove more into the interests of the drivers. In this case, there were three digital billboards placed right next to each other, and the whole thing was positioned next to a roundabout. This allowed for more space to deliver a single message, and it was an easier opportunity to mix images with text and logos.
This sign was developed by Ocean, a British advertising agency, and it builds a profile of a driver based on the type of car they’re in. Then it can advertise luxury goods, clothing, newer models of the same car, and other products and services that the particular group might be interested in.
Again, they made a point of saying that it didn’t store any personal information.
These Signs Can Boost Egos
There was an electronic billboard outside of an airport in Melbourne, Australia that liked to help a certain type of customer brag more than usual. Whenever a Porsche was about to cruise by, they would be greeted with the message that “It’s so easy to pick you out in a crowd,” and the Porsche logo. This one was put together by oOH! Media, and it was a great way to make a luxury brand feel even more luxurious.
Education is Necessary to Prevent Fear
One problem with campaigns like these is that people will start to be concerned about their privacy. Because of the fact that the sign is reading them, they’ll be worried that it’s using their image or license plate to store and use data about them. Since having a Big Brother feeling associated with your brand isn’t very desirable, we advise you to educate the public about the workings of any similar projects you do.
However, that can be a great opportunity for a little extra publicity. It’s fairly likely that journalists will be interested in this type of campaign, and they can help spread the message that it isn’t storing data or invading privacy in any way.
Technology is Only Increasing
Billboards like this were technologically impossible just a few years ago, but all of these campaigns managed to do it in different ways. And as the technology improves, it also becomes more affordable. Don’t rule out any sort of advertising ideas as being too expensive until you actually check the prices.
Are Vehicle Recognition Billboards the Future?
These vehicle recognition billboards are pretty incredible, so it’s pretty easy to think that they could be the future of outdoor advertising. That could very well be true, but it’s also very difficult to tell. One of the biggest problems is that a busy road probably doesn’t allow time for every driver to get a customized message, but it still can be really noticeable for the others to see multiple signs in the same place while in their cars.
Do you have an opinion on people who litter? Almost everyone does. Unfortunately, for those living in crowded urban areas, it’s really just a fact of life. Governments and societies try to crack down on it, but many people just don’t listen.
One anti-litter group decided that enough was enough, and they took a fairly radical step to fight the problem. But, did they cross any ethical lines themselves? That’s up to you to decide.
Hong Kong is a city full of people. As a matter of fact, the more than 7 million inhabitants crammed into such a small place ranks it as the fourth most densely populated region on the planet.
That many people always adds up to a logistical nightmare when it comes to waste disposal, but it doesn’t help that littering seems to be the official sport. Every day, there is more than 16,000 tons of waste dumped in the city, and this has given life to the Hong Kong Cleanup Initiative. The organization’s name is pretty straightforward about what they do, but you might be surprised to learn that they literally launched an in-your-face campaign to combat the problem.
Basics of the Campaign
The government has already tried many methods of going after this problem, so the campaign had to find a unique way of getting to people. There are pretty hefty fines given to anyone caught littering, but that just wasn’t motivational enough. This led the environmental group to team up with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong to try and put together something that would really get people listening. So, the strategy decided on for this campaign was to do a bit of shaming for the litterbugs in society.
They Even Found the Perfect Day to Do It
This whole project was called the Face of Litter Campaign, and they had the perfect day to launch it: Earth Day. Leading up to it, teams had worked to collect garbage, and they managed to pick up more than 4,000 tons from the streets. Then, they gave it to some scientists to work their magic.
What Tech Did They Need to Do It?
Scientists at Parabon NanoLabs used Snapshot™ DNA phenotyping to analyze who had touched the various garbage samples, and this allowed them to make a digital drawing of the litterbug responsible for each individual piece. They tended to focus on bits of garbage that would have physical bits of people left behind, and some of the favorites were coffee cups, cigarette butts, and condoms. This technology has the ability to predict eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling, shape of the face, and a lot more about people just from a tiny amount of their DNA. It may sound like something out of science fiction, but that’s the world we live in today.
What Did It Accomplish?
The Hong Kong Cleanup Initiative has some great programs in place to clean up the trash. Unfortunately, they were really stuck in the pattern of cleaning up after people, and they weren’t having much success in preventing littering in the first place. That’s where this campaign really helped out – it got people talking. In only two weeks, it managed to get 3.9 million engagements on social media, and $5 million in earned media coverage.
Advertising vs. Activism
This campaign was very successful by many measurements, but it does raise some ethical questions. The pictures that were shown were generated drawings of theoretical people, but is it appropriate to publicly shame people? Even if it works to solve a problem, it can cause harm to people who may or may not deserve it. We don’t have the answer to this, it’s really up to you and your own personal beliefs.
A major takeaway from this campaign is how science can be used in advertising. It’s likely that this whole project would have been far less interesting if they had simply taken photographs of people caught in the act of littering. It really stands out because of the amazing science that many people didn’t realize was possible, but then it was the perfect chance to convey the message once it had everyone’s attention.
How far will your advertising go?
Have you ever done anything similar to get your message across? You don’t necessarily have to be so aggressive with your advertising tactics, but this doesn’t change the fact that pulling stunts like this will get you talked about. So, don’t be afraid to push the limits, but make sure you’re thinking about your image as a whole before you do anything too crazy.
If you’re not sure how to do this on your own, just give us a call. We’re ready to hear your ideas!
You’re being watched…
We all know that the day would come that robots would invade our world, but it looks like science fiction was being overly dramatic in a lot of the horror stories. They never mentioned how profitable the robots would be.
That’s right, we live in a world where billboards are thinking. They can read you, decide what you’re thinking, and give you the best possible ad. From there, all you can do is grab your credit card.
Did you know this was an option for your business?
So, What is This Intelligent Billboard?
Billboards were installed in London last year as a test of the technology to see if it was possible for a computer to successfully design the perfect ad – on its own. They had a digital display, and they had a camera inside to read the people looking at them. The first step was to decide what sort of mood the person was in. Then, depending on whether the viewer was happy, sad, or neutral, it would display a different version of the ad. Afterward, it analyzed the responses to measure how successful the ad was. Finally, it repeated the good ads and trashed the bad ones.
The Technology Inside
You might imagine that they developed some sort of incredibly advanced technology to make this happen, but that actually wasn’t the case. This was put together by the M&C Saatchi Advertising Agency, and they were working with Clear Channel and Posterscope to make it happen. The billboards just had a Microsoft Kinect camera inside, so they were really just using technology that had already been developed for playing video games. Kinect is able to read people’s reactions, so it gets the job done.
Bahia: The Coffee of the Future
Unfortunately, this whole campaign probably created a lot of angry customers. For the experiment, the advertising agency decided against using a real brand, so they simply made one up. The product was an instant coffee called Bahia, and it’s not the type of thing that usually draws a lot of attention.
The Evolution of the Ad
The billboard was only advertising the one brand, so it was fairly limited in what it showed. It didn’t promote sports cars to one person, laundry detergent to the next, and allergy medicine to a third. Instead, it was programmed to use a series of different fonts, colors, and styles to see how different people reacted to the plea to buy coffee.
Why Spying on Your Customers Works
While the first instinct of many is that this whole idea is kind of creepy, it can actually work to improve everyone’s life. If you remember that the main goal of advertising is to let people know about products or services they want, then this just helps eliminate all the noise on the street. Instead of wasting your time, these smart billboards were able to show people what they wanted to see. Also, since it measured reactions to see what people liked and didn’t like, and it can help make higher quality advertising in the future. It’s basically like having a focus group that’s composed of, well, everyone.
Why the Internet Isn’t As Important as We Think
The internet has become a great place for businesses because it makes it possible to measure things in a way that has never even been remotely possible. A lot of companies have been using it as an excuse to steer away from more traditional forms of advertising media, but this could put a stop to that pattern. Internet browsing history is a great way to build a profile of your customer, but nothing beats walking around town with them and asking them their opinions. If this technology can be in a few bus stops in London, it might not be long before it’s all over the globe.
This Campaign Doesn’t Invade Your Privacy
One nice feature about this little experiment is that it was designed in a way that wouldn’t let it cause any invasion of privacy. It didn’t follow the standard internet strategy of storing all your information. Even if it did, it wouldn’t make a huge difference because it never actually knew who it was looking at.
Time for You to Do the Same
Do you use similar techniques in your business? Even if you don’t want to go to such extreme measures as this campaign did, are you taking advantage of modern advertising strategies? The marriage of technology and traditional advertising is a key relationship in influencing consumers.