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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Coming: Smart screens that 'eye' ad viewers

Billboards that capture audience data to be rolled out by 3 transport firms
The Straits Times - June 24, 2011
By: Irene Tham
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Coming: Smart screens that 'eye' ad viewers The faces of Mr Mark Gravina (left) and Mr Dan Mabey of 1-2-1 View highlighted on a smart screen at BroadcastAsia2011. -- PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

GUYS, the next time you steal a glance at a lingerie advertisement, someone may be watching.

The invisible eye is a digital camera mounted behind high-tech multimedia billboards, which will soon be rolled out here.

Coupled with an audience measurement software embedded in these 'smart' screens, advertisers can capture within a few seconds the viewer's gender, age, ethnicity and how long he looks at the screen.

The data is then sent via wireless broadband to a backend server for instant analysis to determine, say, if an ad is catching the attention of its target audience.

Created by local start-up 1-2-1 View Media Holdings, the technology is among many offerings showcased at BroadcastAsia, a trade show for the broadcast industry taking place at Suntec City this week.

The event is held under a bigger infocomm and technology trade show, Infocomm Media Business Exchange, which also comprises CommunicAsia, a trade show for telecommunications technology taking place at Marina Bay Sands.

Mr Mark Gravina, general manager of 1-2-1 View, told The Straits Times that it will be installing the smart screens in several public areas for 'three major companies in the transportation sector in the coming weeks'.

He declined to name the companies, but a check confirmed SMRT is one of them.

A spokesman for the local rail operator said it is testing these smart screens in some of its stations, but she declined to say which. The company will evaluate the technology's effectiveness before deciding on an actual rollout, she said.

JCDecaux Singapore, which operates billboards in Changi Airport and some shopping malls and underpasses, said it is exploring the technology. 'Nothing has been confirmed,' its spokesman said.

Digital advertising screens are already present in train stations and some malls, but they play only ads and do not capture audience information.

Current smart billboards, such as those showcased by 1-2-1 View, may be only one step behind the high-tech billboards seen in the futuristic film, Minority Report, which can recognise passers-by and target them with customised ads.

Associate Professor Ang Swee Hoon of the National University of Singapore Business School said the smart screens provide a good way of measuring traffic as they are unobtrusive, fast and cost-efficient.

Conventional data collection methods which involve dispatching people to manually count traffic is too costly and time-consuming, she added.

'If I were an advertiser, I would want to make sure my ad targets the demographic group that I want,' she said.

But such technologies come at a price.

A digital screen visible in daylight costs $75,000 to $85,000, compared with $3,000 to $4,000 for a display panel for posters.

There is an additional service fee that 1-2-1 View charges for the use of its proprietary audience measurement software, which comes with daily or monthly reports. The reports provide information on the number of people who see the ads, their age and gender, and how long they stare at them.

Its fees range from $20 to $300 per screen per month, depending on the scale of the installation and the amount of customisation required.

Mr Greg Unsworth, who is the technology, infocomm and entertainment and media industry leader at accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), said that demand for these technologies will grow as advertisers look for new and innovative ways to market to consumers.

He expects advertisers and landlords to test the technology in high-density pedestrian areas before rolling them out throughout Singapore.

PwC has not analysed spending on smart billboard displays. But it expects the overall billboard advertising market in Singapore to hit $82 million in 2015. The market was worth $57 million last year.

itham@sph.com.sg

Download ad data while taking a leak

WHILE answering nature's call in a mall's loo, you will soon also be able to call on the multimedia screen in your toilet cubicle for more information on an advertised product.

Just whip out your smartphone and snap a picture of the barcode displayed on the advertisement, which will allow you to download to your smartphone more information about the product.

This new way of advertising is making its way into public toilets, starting with those found in malls and restaurants.

Local start-up Mosaic MediaHouse is speaking to mall and restaurant operators to install its 22-inch multimedia screens - called QRBoards - on bathroom stall doors, above urinals and beside the mirrors at the wash basin areas.

Mosaic's director and co-founder Gauthier Provost said that the 313@Somerset mall will be testing 40 units of its QRBoards in both the mall's male and female toilets next month.

Mosaic will install the screens, sell the advertising space and share the revenue with the landlord.

MediaCorp also manages multimedia advertising billboards installed above restroom urinals at Ion Orchard shopping mall. But they display only multimedia advertisements, not barcodes for scanning.

Adding a barcode is the next step forward, said Associate Professor Ang Swee Hoon of the National University of Singapore Business School.

She said: 'More and more ads will have these codes. Placing them in toilets is another medium - I actually consider the ad placement to be very creative.'

IRENE THAM

 

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