“Big Billboard” May Be Watching You

Digital billboard shows the time and channel of a cable television program.

Mobile device tracking allows billboard advertisers to see you and track you.

Digital billboards are the next new thing in outdoor advertising.  What are digital billboards, you ask?  They are billboards that use mobile tracking devices to determine who passes by the billboards, who they are, and whether they’ve acted on what the billboard has suggested they do.

Clear Channel Outside markets digital billboards like seedy motels do “hot sheets”–by the hour, the day, or the week–depending on the clientele and their needs.

Here’s the pitch:

Digital billboards allow advertisers to change messages throughout the course of a day.

Digital billboard advertising capabilities include social media integration, countdowns, day/weekparting, live updates, conditional content (weather, temperature), Outdoor Connect / RSS WiFi / Touch-Screen, and more.

  • Flexible – Engage and develop a dialogue with consumers through unlimited creative executions, using a variety of digital outdoor signs.
  • Time-Sensitive – Digital enables instantaneous creative updates and the ability to respond in real-time to current events and market conditions.
  • Targeted – Impact specific geographic and demographic audiences close to the point of sale.
  • Efficient – Optimize ad spend and work synergistically with other media to enhance ROI.
  • Positioned on highly visible, heavy traffic locations such as expressways and major roadways.
Contract Terms
  • Digital spots can be purchased in a variety of time lengths from one day up to one year.
  • Purchased individually, in networks or by rating point level.

Bottom line: Advertisers can, through tracking your mobile phones, determine where you are, who you are, and whether you, if you were to pass by one of these digital billboards, went into a store, movie, or whatever, to patronize what the billboard was advertising.

The purpose?

According to Clear Channel Outdoor, the goal is to give advertisers tools to buy and measure the effectiveness of outdoor ads that are similiar to those they use for digital and mobile ads.

So, in a sense, the Internet, mobile phones, and data analytics is shrinking the distance between you and what someone wants to know about you and try to sell you.

Can you opt out?  Not really.  And by the way, I’m guessing if there was a crime committed in the vicinity of one of these billboards and the authorities suspected the criminal (or worse, terrorist) passed or drove by one of these billboards, they could subpoena the data and inspect it.   Apple’s phones are only the beginning.

Bad or good?  You decide.

Here’s Sydney Ember’s piece in the NY Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/29/business/media/see-that-billboard-it-may-see-you-too.html?_r=0


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