A couple years ago Mini Cooper rolled out a test campaign in four or five major markets to inspire brand loyalty among Mini owners and infuse a sense of community. Don't remember it? Not a big deal, I didn't either. It wasn't an earth-shattering idea. Basically, Mini Cooper owners were given special key fobs equipped with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) transmitters that would activate messages on digital billboards when Mini drivers were 500 feet away. The "community" part was addressed via the use of personalized messages, like, "Hey Bobby, Happy Birthday! Lookin' Good." It was slightly innovative and engaging, but expensive (considering that the target already owned a Mini Cooper) and so 2007.
Using a similar approach, Yahoo Corp., Japan isn't looking to inspire brand loyalty, but is working to raise out-of-home targeting capabilities. Camera-equipped billboards, armed with facial recognition software, will determine the age and sex of a passerby. The billboard will then deliver a message geared to the person's perceived demographic.
Yahoo! Japan will begin the campaign with 500 billboards in train stations and shopping malls in Southern Japan, displaying content like news, weather, and ads. Yahoo will then expand the service to Tokyo and Osaka, doubling the number of the billboards.
The technology has already been used in the US, but fell under intense scrutiny due to perceived privacy infringements. It's hopeful that Japan will utilize the information gained to deliver impactful, truthful, and relevant messages, like; "Whoa! Are Your Kids Getting Enough To Eat? Think Weight Watchers." or "Ma'am? From Here It Looks Like You Need a New Bra Fitting. Suzie's Lingerie Can Help." Truth in advertising does have its upside...