Technology is Making the Billboard Sexy (Again?)

You can trace the modern day billboard back to the 1790’s, when the advent of lithography made it easy to mass produce signage.  In the 1900’s, billboards followed the explosion of the automobile and moved from the sides of buildings to highways.  Close to 100 years later in 2012, the digital billboard was born – allowing content to change interactively.

Thanks to the proliferation of location tracking through mobile devices, digital billboards are now advancing even further.

Clear Channel just launched a program called Radar, which uses technology and location data from partners like AT&T, Place IQ, and Placed, to build audience profiles based upon the people that pass by the billboard. They’re able to tell an advertiser not only the exposure of the ad but the aggregated demographics of the consumers who likely drove by the billboard.  This is a vast improvement over the old method, which relied on a person actually counting the cars that drove by a particular ad.

Synapse Labs is using cameras to identify the make, model, and year of a car passing by a billboard – and changing the ad content in realtime.  So BMW can target the drivers of late model Audi’s differently than early model Mercedes Benz owners.

Technology has vastly improved two of the three legs of addressable advertising for outdoor signage – modeling and targeting.   All that is left is accurate post-campaign measurement, tying those who are exposed to an advertisement to their future purchases.

These are exciting advancements, and this type of technology isn’t limited to billboards and cars; it can be applied to any outdoor signage.  For example, targeted advertising in a shopping mall based upon the gender of the person standing in front of the sign. And I’m certain that this isn’t the last advancement we’ll see to billboards and outdoor signage.  As cross channel hyper-targeting becomes more accurate through technological advancements, you’ll see better uses of this “classic” media.

Sources:  History of Billboards, Wikipedia

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