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How Digital Billboards are Changing the Face of Outdoor Advertising

Advertisements, regardless of their form, are engineered to accomplish one thing: capture the attention of an onlooker and inspire action.

In the past, the advertising industry predominantly used mediums such as newspapers, billboards, television, and the radio to deliver their marketing messages. These “traditional” mediums have received a few face lifts over the years in the form of digital outdoor advertising, as well as more advanced printing and broadcasting methods that increased their fidelity.

However, with the advent of computers and the internet, traditional advertising became increasingly more sophisticated and digital or Internet-based advertising, which has proven to be significantly better for targeting specific demographics, leading many advertisers to drop support for traditional methods altogether.

Coca Cola Billboard
Recent technological innovations, however, have led many big players in the advertising industry to go back to traditional forms of advertising, specifically digital billboards and their smaller screened counterparts. Why? Because unlike online ads, billboards are not seen as being an inconvenience; in some cases, billboards are even seen as “artistic”, especially those put into the public’s eye by companies like Apple and Coca Cola.

But what about capturing the passerby’s attention? With the use of new interactive technologies, billboards are becoming more than just static images painted on a wall: billboards are now participating members of the Internet of Things, and they’re getting smarter every day.

Introducing the Smart Billboard


If you’ve traveled anywhere in America by car, bus, or foot, you’ve undoubtedly seen an electronic billboard. To be clear, when we refer to an electronic or digital billboard, we are not only referring to traditional billboards like the ones you see next to freeways, but also smaller digital screens that might appear next to bus benches, shopping centers, or other high traffic areas.

Once hailed as the next big thing in outdoor advertising, digital billboards quickly grew stale. Why? Because even though digital billboards allow a rotation of ads to be displayed, these types of billboards are still very easy to ignore.

In order for any advertisement to really capture the attention of a human being, the ad needs to speak to the viewer, both literally and figuratively. This is where smart billboards come into play.

What is Smart Advertising?


A “smart” advertisement, much like a smartphone or any other “smart” device, is an advertisement that can dynamically react to its environment by sending and receiving data over an information network (like the Internet).

Digital Billboards and Smart Advertising
The concept of a smart advertisement has been around for quite some time; in fact, any digital, out of home advertising that can adapt its message based on the time, date, or the weather can already be considered a “smart advertisement”.

Keep in mind though that while these adaptive billboards may seem highly intelligent compared to traditional static billboards they are still very simple implementations that barely scratch the surface of what a truly high-tech billboard could achieve.

What sorts of things will the billboards of the future do? They’ll dynamically react to their environment, changing the content displayed on the screen based on information they can collect about you, the onlooker.

In order to accomplish this task, the billboard or digital screens of the future will be equipped with an array of technologies ranging from cameras, radar, infrared, and antennas, which will provide the “eyes” needed to be able to see, listen and react to their environment.

Smart Advertising Implementations


Smart billboards equipped with these technologies are already starting to pop up around the world, and below are just a few of the different kinds of scenarios that the advertising industry has begun to experiment with.

The Coughing Man


Apotek Creates Responsive Digital BillboardIn Sweden, the ad agency Akestam Holst and the pharmaceutical chain known as Apotek have come together to create a responsive outdoor advertising campaign to help combat smoking.

How it works is simple: when a smoker passes by the screen, smoke detectors installed in the system trigger a video of a man coughing. Following this video is an anti-smoking message and an advertisement for products designed to help with nicotine addiction.

This sort of digital ad campaign is a compelling, though simple, example of creative thinking combined with technology that has be available for decades. This sort of ad is hard to ignore, because much like someone randomly calling your name on the street, the ad is communicating directly to the individual, making them far more likely to stop and pay attention.

Facial Recognition & Dynamic Videos


A more advanced example of digital outdoor advertising can be found right here in the United States.

Digital Billboards Use-Facial Recognition
In Santa Monica, CA, Posterscope, a leader in digital-out-of-home communications, along with partners Ouividi EYE Corp Media and Engage M1 have created one of the most advanced interactive billboard experiences on the market.

Designed for GMC Arcadia, this digital outdoor advertisement is equipped with facial recognition cameras that are capable of identifying gender, facial expression, age, and the composition of a passing crowd.

This capability has allowed developers to program a series of videos that react dynamically to whoever may be in the vicinity. For example, if a woman were to pass by the screen, a prerecorded greeting will play in the form of a video that utilizes phrasing such as “Hello, my Lady.”

Additionally, because the cameras embedded in the unit can detect facial expressions, the ad can be programmed to play interactive games with the onlooker. In this particular example, the ad can engage in staring contests or other activities such a daring the onlooker not to laugh while the “speaker” performs a silly dance. Depending on how successful (or unsuccessful) the participant is at completing the game, the ad will react accordingly.

This is especially engaging when you consider the fact that these cameras can recognize when a family consisting of small children and their parents are walking by. The video can react dynamically to these sorts of situations, and address the children directly, causing the entire group to stop and engage with the ad.

Upgrading Traditional Billboards


Converting what we know as a traditional billboard into a smart advertisement is much more difficult than the examples we’ve provided thus far. For a billboard to be reactive to its environment, its “eyes” need to be able to make decisions based upon the cars driving past it, which is about as difficult as it sounds—just imagine standing on an overpass above a freeway and attempting to evaluate the cars and its occupants passing underneath, then drawing a conclusion of the sorts of things they might enjoy; it would be really difficult.

However, several companies are working on new solutions to this problem, including Clear Channel Outdoor with their “Radar” program.

Radar is a sophisticated system that analyzes anonymous data aggregated from cell phones in passing vehicles. Once this data is processed through the system, the system can then dynamically alter the content of the billboard to display an advertisement that is relevant to those in the group.

For example, if by chance a group of vehicles happens to be passing by that is heavily composed of parents and their children, the advertisement that might have been originally showcasing a new car can alter its content to instead show a preview for a new family-friendly movie that is opening that weekend.

Additionally, besides looking at anonymous data, the technology can also identify the types of vehicles that are passing by. In this case, if there happened to be a large group of Fords driving by, the advertisement could shift and display ads for Chevy vehicles with some kind of special offer for Ford owners.

The Future of Outdoor Advertising is Digital


As these technologies become less expensive and thus more readily available, there is sure to be a push to develop and improve outdoor advertising mediums for more intelligence and a greater range of interactivity.

Everyone should expect to see more of these sorts of creative advertising campaigns making their way to the general public in the coming years, especially if advertisers can prove the greater effectiveness of these types of interactive advertising experiences. This expansion will provide a new level of convenience to consumers, and an opportunity for businesses to make their goods and services more widely known amongst their targeted demographic.

Landmark Dividend: Helping Developers and Landowners


If you are a developer who’s looking for a financial solution for your next billboard project, or if you happen to be the current owner of a billboard lease, Landmark Dividend may be of service to you.

Landmark Dividend is the largest and most experienced ground lease acquisition company in the country, and we can provide you with financial solutions that are perfectly suited to your needs.

To find out more about how Landmark Dividend can help you get started on your new project, or how we can unlock the true value of your billboard lease, please call us today at 1-800-843-2024 or click here to submit your information online.