New interactive ads will recognize you & serve up targeted content

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Imagine yourself as Tom Cruise’s character in the Steven Spielberg film Minority Report, where advertisements call him out by name as he walks through a shopping mall in the year 2054. If you think that type of consumer targeting is a violation of your privacy, you certainly won’t be happy to learn that the Centre for Future Studies has released a report predicting that we’ll be taking a big step towards such a world this year.

And the advertisements of the future will know a great deal more about you than your name.

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New interactive ads will recognize you & serve up targeted content

“Steven Spielberg got it wrong,” says Daniel Steinbichler, CEO of 3MGTG, the corporation that commissioned the report. “It will be more advanced than the director ever imagined. Instead of just recognizing consumers by name, technology such as gladvertising will allow brands to offer interactive experiences.”

Gladvertising is the term that the study’s authors are using to describe future ads that will scan and determine the mood of passersby before serving up a marketing message tailored to that mood. Such ads will likely begin showing up around the world in 2012.

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Already up and running in Tokyo are ads running on a system designed by NEC that attempt to determine a person’s age and gender in order to show the most relevant ad for the individual’s demographic.

The big question is how much consumers are willing to take, but the promise of getting something in return for the collection of data could push some past what they might ordinarily tolerate.

“We wouldn’t be surprised to see digital signage also serving as WiFi hotspots in the future to collect even more data,” Alexander Hanff from Privacy International told the BBC.

Hanff and other privacy advocates worry about the extent that marketers are going to, in order to get their messages out to those who might be most likely to respond. He also says that current pushes to protect consumer privacy will have no effect on targeted street ads.

“New regulations are focused on browser controls and third party tools to protect the public (a self-regulatory approach) and completely fail to see the wider issue such as apps, street level commercial surveillance (such as digital signage) and device tracking,” Hanff says.

This gladvertising movement bears a striking similarity to a technology being pursued by movie theaters to monitor audience reactions and possibly also scan for piracy equipment.

Even as someone who has worked in the marketing field, I think that companies have gone too far in integrating their messages into every aspect of consumers’ lives.

Do you find this type of personalized marketing technology to be cool or creepy? Share your opinion in the comments below.

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