Tech: McDonald’s Sweden Digital Mobile Billboards Are Food Ordering Devices

Tech: McDonald’s Sweden Digital Mobile Billboards Are Food Ordering Devices

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“McDonald’s Sweden’s launched its new fried chicken burger with a nod to street food culture. Wheels were added to digital billboards in Stockholm and Västerås—near actual McDonald’s restaurants…

Here’s how it worked: Passersby would scan a QR code… customer would complete the order and pick up their food at one of the two nearby McDonald’s. Watch a billboard in action below:”

— Amy Corr,

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“Targeted Billboard Ads Are a Privacy Nightmare”

“Targeted Billboard Ads Are a Privacy Nightmare”

Photo: Spencer Platt, Getty Images in Gizmodo

“A new report details ways advertisers are taking lessons learned from mobile ads to create intimately targeted ads in the physical world.

Advertisers are using insights gleaned from targeted digital advertising and applying it to create physical billboards capable of serving up tailored advertisements catered to the types of people viewing them. If that concept sounds eerily familiar that’s because it’s precisely the type of physical targeted advertising vision Tom Cruise encounters when walking through a shopping center in Steven Spielberg’s 2002 sci-fi hit, The Minority Report.

These targeted billboard ads, which have existed for several years but are growing in popularity, are the subject of a new report from U.K., backed civil liberties group Big Brother Watch. The report, aptly called ‘The Streets are Watching,’ provides a deep dive into ways a handful of companies use facial recognition enabled billboards to analyze the world around them and then use that data to serve up pedestrians personalized ads…

The report claims advertisers can analyze pedestrians based on their precise GPS location, gender and age demographics, and behavioral data—like how they interact with certain apps—to create tailored advertiser profiles. Though sophisticated targeted advertising on mobile phones has become the defacto standard of modern life, advertisers want to apply that same framework to physical billboards…

The report digs deep into a handful of companies creating digital billboards with high quality cameras capable of detecting human faces. Some of those companies, the report notes, use facial recognition software to determine demographic and even emotional details of the users in front of users gazing at content. In other cases, facial recognition can be used to determine whether or not a viewer is actively looking at a certain advertisement or not.

In recent years, Big Brother Watch says billboard facial recognition tech was used in ad campaigns for the Emoji movie, an anti-suicide charity, a Royal Navy recruitment drive and for an organization raising awareness around prostate cancer, amongst other cases. Other billboards in busy pedestrian areas reportedly change their advertisements based on the perceived emotional state and gender make up of crowds passing by. Most people, all the while, remain unaware they were ever scanned.

‘Going about the world with the feeling that cameras are not just recording video but analysing you as a person to shape your reality is an uncomfortable concept,’ the report reads. ‘This data is being gathered not just to work out if an ad campaign was successful but to alter how people experience reality without their explicit consent, all in an attempt to make more sale…’

ALFI, one of the companies highlighted in the report, reportedly sells a ‘plug and play’ computer vision tool to advertisers which uses an algorithm to analyze ‘small facial cues and perceptual details that make potential customers a good candidate for a particular product.’ The company’s product, according to the report, claims to be compatible with many major digital billboards on the market. Last year the company reportedly provided Uber and Lyft drivers around 10,000 facial recognition equipped tablets in an effort to serve passengers personalized advertisements. That creep into transportation services drew criticism from activists and prominent lawmakers like Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar who wrote letters to Uber and Lyft expressing privacy concerns…

The report goes on to highlight two prominent U.K. billboard owners, Ocean Outdoor and Clear Channel, who both reportedly utilize face scanning tech from a French company called Quividi. That firm claims its products can detect gender, age within five years, up to 100 faces in a crowd at the same time, and the amount of time someone spends looking at a billboard screen. Quividi, according to the report, can ‘see you coming’ and then adjusts its ads at just the right time…

Big Brother Watch highlights fundamental issues around “blanket consent” once relegated primarily to digital ecosystems. Now, with the rise of digital billboards, those same concerns increasingly apply to pedestrians simply trying to make their way home or around town. However, while smartphone users could theoretically adjust certain privacy settings to reduce their surveillance footprint, the same can’t necessarily be said for pedestrians in public spaces. ‘Consent cannot be meaningfully given to any of these data processes, as an individual is often in the sight of the cameras linked to the billboards or tablets before they are alerted to the processing and have the option to walk away,’ the report reads. ‘This data is being gathered not just to work out if an ad campaign was successful but to alter how people experience reality without their explicit consent, all in an attempt to make more sales.””

— Mack DeGeurin, Gizmodo

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Mobile Technology Powered by People: “Meet the Adidas Billboards That Could Probably Outrun You”

Mobile Technology Powered by People: “Meet the Adidas Billboards That Could Probably Outrun You”

Photo: Adidas

“Adidas’ most recent campaign (quite literally) has legs…

To promote its specially-designed sweat-proof, ergonomic, wireless ‘Fwd-02 Sport’ earbuds for runners, developed by Zound Industries, M&C Saatchi Stockholm turned athletes from Stockholm Run Club into moving advertisements.

A series of lightweight billboards were designed by the agency, then donned by a cherry-picked team of elite runners who took to the most popular running routes in the Swedish capital. Each poster featured a QR code on the back that offered fellow runners a 50% discount on the headphones.

The catch? To get the discount, people had to keep up with the elites to get close enough to snap the code…”

— Rebecca Stewart, Adweek

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“Soon when you walk down the street, 3-D creatures could try to sell you something”

“Soon when you walk down the street, 3-D creatures could try to sell you something”

Photo: Ocean Outdoor in Washington Post

“A new form of outdoor advertising is slowly taking hold. But experts warn of overload…Anamorphic advertising is coming — usually right out of a building. (

It all began with a floating cat.

Photo: Independent UK (click photo for article

The giant feline suddenly appeared suspended over Tokyo’s Shinjuku train station. Throughout the summer, it stretched awake in the morning, meowed at passersby during rush hour and curled into a sleepy ball after midnight.

The cat, along with a cresting ocean wave above the streets of Seoul, wasn’t a biology experiment gone awry. It was a 3-D anamorphic outdoor ad, a proof-of-concept from several Asian design firms. The pieces would inspire principals at British ad company Ocean Outdoor, owner of many public screens across Europe, to create tools for a 3-D ad platform called DeepScreen. Part art installation, part ‘1984’-esque vision, the results hint at what our commercialized outdoor spaces might soon look like…

In just a few months, Ocean Outdoor’s Piccadilly Circus location and others across Europe have attracted advertisers including Fortnite, Netflix, Vodafone (the ad has 25-foot rugby stars and their ball bursting through a building), Sony, Amazon’s Prime Video (for its new ‘Wheel of Time’ fantasy series) and food-service company Deliveroo. Two weeks ago, the British agency that worked on the ‘Wheel of Time’ spot, Amplify, brought it to Times Square…

‘This is exciting and it’s attention-getting,’ said Arun Lakshmanan, an associate professor of marketing at the University at Buffalo School of Management and an expert in immersive advertising. ‘It also could really start getting intrusive…’

Production is expensive — it can cost upward of $500,000, several times a 30-second TV spot — and labor intensive…

Nir Eyal, an author and expert on the attention economy, called this in an email the ‘shiny pony’ problem. New forms of advertising lose their luster. Customers could lose interest.

But these ads may not be aimed only at them. Teixeira notes that the appearance of innovation could be equally important for what it telegraphs to investors, retailers and competitors.

Even the skeptical would admit there’s something cool about dynamic images occupying the space around us. But is it scary in the hands of corporations? Could advertising get ‘Minority Reported,’ where we are all Tom Cruise, assaulted by airborne ads tailored to us every time we leave our homes?

Could a political demagogue even use the tech to loom large in public?

‘How we want to regulate this is a very good question,’ said Buffalo’s Lakshmanan. ‘Unfortunately, in the history of advertising, it tends to be answered only after something has gotten popular.'”

— Steven Zeitchik, Washington Post

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Beach Sign Trend: “More no trespassing signs popping up on private properties on Siesta Key beaches”

Beach Sign Trend: “More no trespassing signs popping up on private properties on Siesta Key beaches”

Photo: WWSP

“Some resort and condo owners on Siesta Key have placed signs on the beach telling people to stay off their beach property…

Sarasota County says they are aware of the situation and they are looking into the ordinance that governs the signage. Although some beachgoers are upset with what they’re seeing, many are very understanding.

— Rick Adams, WWSP

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Consumer Reports:  “Digital billboards are tracking you. And they really, really want you to see their ads.”  On social media, your TV, etc.

Consumer Reports: “Digital billboards are tracking you. And they really, really want you to see their ads.” On social media, your TV, etc.

Photo: Consumer Reports

“How the most intrusive parts of the web are expanding into the real world, complete with data collection and targeted ads.

On a bright Friday morning, Frank O’Brien is giving me a tour through Times Square in New York City. Thousands of strangers are milling around us on the sidewalk, and in the crowd, it’s easy to feel anonymous. But according to O’Brien, many of the billboards and screens towering over our heads in every direction know a lot about who we are.

‘As we stand here, there are devices behind that screen that are picking ID numbers from our cell phones,’ O’Brien tells me, gesturing toward a billboard at 42nd Street and 7th Avenue. Using those devices and other technology, he says, ‘We know who is in Times Square at a given moment.’

O’Brien, the CEO of a high-tech advertising platform called Five Tier, launches an app on his phone. He taps a few buttons and in an instant, the billboard changes to display a picture of me I’d sent him the day before. Suddenly, I’m famous, with a 20-foot-high photo of me gazing out over the tourists. ‘It still amazes me sometimes,’ he says…

Data including your gender, age, race, income, interests, and purchasing habits can be used by a company such as Five Tier to trigger an advertisement right away. Or, more often, it will be used for planning where and when to show ads in the future—maybe parents of school-age children tend to pass a particular screen at 3 p.m. on weekdays, while 20-something singles usually congregate nearby on Saturday nights.

Then the tracking continues. Once your phone is detected near a screen showing a particular ad, an advertising company may follow up by showing you related ads in your social media feed, and in some cases these ads may be timed to coordinate with the commercials you see on your smart TV at night.

It doesn’t stop there. Advertisers are keenly interested in ‘attribution,’ judging how well a marketing campaign influences consumer behavior. For instance, is it better to target people like you with online ads for fast food right after you see a restaurant’s new TV commercial, or to wait until after you drive by a new billboard the next day? The advertising industry looks for the answers by watching where you go in person, what you do online, and what you buy with your credit card.

Charts: Example shown in Consumer reports

These aren’t futuristic scenarios. They are a recent but growing trend, according to executives in the advertising business. ‘The industry has really started to wake up to this within the last year,’ says Ian Dallimore, the director of digital growth for Lamar Advertising, a leader in out-of-home advertising. ‘If you’re not using data to better plan and buy ads, then you’re probably not doing out-of-home the right way.’

Researchers say that as tracking and ad targeting spill over from the web into the real world, our collective privacy and sense of control are eroding. If you don’t want to see ads at home, you can close your browser or turn off your phone, but you can’t avoid the ads you see in public. And there’s no practical way to completely block the location tracking used to place those ads…

Photo: Consumer Reports
Lawmakers and regulatory agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission are paying more attention to data privacy, but it’s not clear how the measures being put in place will affect the way individuals are tracked through their phones, and how the data is used by data brokers and their clients. Several out-of-home advertising companies I spoke with said they already comply with GDPR, Europe’s sweeping privacy regulation that was implemented in 2018. The companies also say they are prepared for the most stringent privacy legislation in the U.S., the California Consumer Privacy Act, which is supported by Consumer Reports and goes into effect in January 2020.

Five Tier’s Frank O’Brien says that, just like every other industry, the out-of-home advertising business should be regulated. But for now, if you’re not comfortable with how out-of-home advertising uses your information, you don’t have much recourse. ‘I don’t think there’s anything you can do about it,’ he says. ”

— Thomas Germain, Consumer Reports
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