How A Tokyo Billboard Will Target Drivers As They Pass By

The project aims to offer a level of personalization previously missing from out-of-home advertising.

A billboard that targets users with relevant ad content as they drive by is set to debut in Tokyo by Fall 2016, a move that opens up a variety of new possibilities for on-the-go targeting.

A camera on the billboard will reportedly identify vehicles and then present a relevant ad for about five seconds.

“The ad could come up with ‘Hey you in the Mercedes, you could be driving this [instead],'” Paul Turner, CMO at Cloudian, told CNN, which initially reported the news. Cloudian is working with Japanese company Dentsu on the project.

The idea is that the car a consumer owns or drives can be a relatively good predictor of demographics and what other products that person might be interested in — allowing out-of-home advertising to catch up to the level of personalization afforded to brands who target ads to consumers’ mobile devices.

21st Century Facelift

Billboards are one of the oldest staples of advertising, but recent years have seen the attempt to bring the medium into the digital age. One particularly innovative digital out-of-home example is Dove’s Times Square campaign, which brought together Havas helia, WPP’s Candyspace, Kinetic, and to broadcast ‘smart,’ weather-triggered billboard messages that alerted pedestrians to coming raindrops.

But while that campaign did rely on real-time data to inform ads, it only had to adapt to information about weather patterns in a specific area — not change its message every time a new person passed by.

Ads targeted on a consumer’s location, shopping behavior, and more are rapidly becoming the default standard, so it’s no surprise that more advanced targeting is making its way to digital out-of-home advertising. The parties behind the Tokyo billboard are simply working to make the personalization consumers now expect more available across the board.

We’ve heard a million times that personalization is key to the customer experience, but this technology has the potential to bring that maxim to life in a new way. So, don’t be surprised if billboards start singling you out — just remember to keep your eyes on the road.