digital displays

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Conan turns to blimps and digital and tv to build his brand.

Conan turns to blimps and digital and tv to build his brand.

No wonder advertisers get confused about how to allocate media dollars. It is an absolute free-for-all. A day does not go by without another news item suggesting how one medium or platform is overtaking or supplanting another. I routinely remind myself of the progression that TV did not kill radio when it came on the scene, and likewise, the Internet did not replace TV. Every form of media is still in active use (papyrus scrolls and carrier pigeons excepted). I see latest Conan TV ads feature blimp advertising blended with mobile platforms. As a big fan of Team Coco, I am hoping for Goodyear associations, not Hindenberg.

A quick sampling of recent stories should give everyone pause about claiming superiority over another medium or about writing a competing medium’s obituary.

This intriguing story from Advertising Age suggests Facebook is voraciously eating the lunch of major magazine brands. It left me scratching my head about how Burberry, frozen in my own brain as a conservative British purveyor of fine raincoats, has attracted over 8 million followers on Facebook. I visited their pages and came away still scratching my head. This Google search revealed a few clues — fashion launches via Facebook and iPads, free samples of a new fragrance, interactive videos, and easy-to-follow followers like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Still, that is a staggering number of followers, but more power to them. Whatever Burberry is doing, it’s working.

Next up, two stories from Digiday. One reveals how Google is preparing a full frontal assault on newspapers’ biggest cash cow — Sunday circulars. Imagine a digital version of a circular that gives a retailer all kinds of local control to customize content by store, pricing, and product category. Also from Digiday is a rather depressing, confusing  picture of the landscape of digital advertising tech companies. The bar is low for entrants. The result is a mixed bag of options and results for advertisers. Not sure who is being served by this.

This week, New York magazine devotes an extended article to Twitter and whether it is becoming too big for its 140-character britches, er tweets.

If you’re not completely boggled yet, here is video reporting by the print-based Wall Street Journal delivered online from their web site to explain how tv ad spending can be rising as viewership is dropping. Got that?

My next media recommendation? Burma-shave style billboards but delivered with a twist — constantly changing messaging on a series of digital billboards. The product? Attention-deficit disorder drugs.

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Big brother is watching you!

George Orwell would not be surprised by latest ad technology.

If the privacy police weren’t concerned about intrusive advertising before, they’re going to have a field day with this one. I encourage you to read this story in the Los Angeles Times about the increasing use of facial recognition software technology to identify the age, gender, and race of those who approach new digital advertising displays. When the display pegs your demographic, it serves up targeted ads for products it believes you should be interested in.

When these displays are in a specific retailer (i.e., Banana Republic), they will tailor ad content for merchandise carried in that location. Think of it like’s suggestions of books that you may like based on other books you have previously ordered.

But it doesn’t take much imagination to conceive of situations where this technology is ripe for abuse. For instance, I doubt many middle age men will appreciate having  Viagra ads launched when they step in front of a digital display. Those who are overweight won’t enjoy being treated to a steady barrage of ice cream and candy bar commercials.  Mirror, mirror, on the wall.

Latest NEC digital display technology uses facial recognition software.

Latest NEC digital display technology uses facial recognition software.

It isn’t a big leap either to build facial recognition software into the average TV set.  It will be more than a little unnerving to have ads of specificity delivered when you enter the room of your own home. Guys may not notice any difference if it is a beer commercial during an NFL game, but if it is a spot for a sleep aid, because the TV in your bedroom notices you are still awake wide-eyed at 3 am, then most people are going to be disturbed by the intrusion.

We all wear our gender, race, and age on our sleeves, I mean, shoulders. However, that doesn’t mean we want to be continually reminded of our demographics by the talking box. Opportunities for abuse by advertisers, law enforcement, government policymakers abound. Time to dust off your copy of Orwell’s 1984.

We’ve written before about how companies like Preference Central are trying to solve privacy issues in online advertising before the regulators dictate tougher controls.  This opens a whole new front for major consumer brands and retailers to be careful about. Facial recognition software has long been used in CCTV video monitoring in the security and access control industries. With QR codes and personalized URLs now delivering customized ad messaging, it would not be hard to imagine a future where TV commercials are talking to you by name and citing past purchases and inner cravings. It’s all a lot unnerving.

Racial messaging is an especially sensitive topic right now. For instance, can anyone imagine any young African-American men being appreciative to look into a digital display and having this ad served up to them?

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