Advertising and marketing campaigns have come to saturate our lives. It is difficult to name a form of media we consume without it having some form of advertising included in it, but advertising has gone beyond mere omnipresence and entered into the realm of omniscience as well.
We put a lot of data about ourselves out there onto the web and into the ether. Whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or some other social networking site, we simply don’t seem to care who is watching and listening when we send out reams upon reams of information about our movements, interests, decisions, and activities. Yet someone is, in fact, watching and listening – data gathering firms and the advertising/marketing companies that employ them.
They’re Watching You, Are You Watching Back?
This isn’t a case of Big Brother, although the NSA has certainly leveraged these data gathering practices into a surveillance program that comes close – that is what you’ve been hearing about on the news when it comes to the NSA spying scandal. The government has figured out how to use the data you’re putting in your telecommunications to generate conclusions and leads about criminal and terrorist activity. So it should come as no surprise that business has done the same, except with the intent of selling you more stuff, as opposed to throwing you in jail.
Although for the most part we see this big data crunch happening in small advertisements in your e-mail’s inbox or as part of a newsletter you are randomly signed up for with this or that business, digital signage stands to make great use of your personal data to target you as a consumer with specialized advertising.
Digital signs are already fairly advanced. They can use video and sound, or even be interactive programs, in their efforts to advertise their products to you. Of course these electronics signs are superior to the paper-and-cardboard signs you see on billboards these days, and soon enough digital signs will be all you see – gone will be the paper posters of today.
Yet the future of digital signage is where things can get really crazy. Minority Report offers a glimpse into this possible, potential, and also very likely future where signs come to know you as an individual, speaking your name and addressing your needs, interests, and purchasing history directly.
You Are a Unique and Special Snowflake
Targeted advertising is the most effective kind of advertising – if a consumer is known to be interested or in need of a particular product, pushing your brand on them is very likely to end up in a sale. We also know that interactive advertising, the kind that can draw a person in and cause them to really think about what you’re selling, is also extremely effective.
This futuristic approach, of creating signs that can recognize passersby and address them based on the information that has been gathered about them, is a combination of these two very profitable approaches to advertising. The consumer of the future never stood a chance, it seems.
Data gathering will be far more advanced as well. In Minority Report, we see the main character’s eyes flashing as the signs use his unique eyes as something like facial recognition. Optical recognition allows them to target him as soon as he walks into a room.
Yet this can cut both ways. Our eyes are as unique as our thumbprints – what if we used our eyes as a kind of signature? In this case, our buying habits are stored by the stores we purchase from, who now have a record of our eyes. They can then use that record to create advertisements specifically targeted at us, which then causes us to buy more from them, which improves their data model of us as consumers. An infinite loop of profit for the businesses of tomorrow.
Michael Juba is a writer and marketer from Lititz, Pennsylvania, which was recently voted the coolest small town in America. He enjoys writing about sports, technology, health, home improvement, travel and just about any topic in between.