Communications and Society blog: By and for students in Marist COM 201

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When Ads Look Back

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“Imagine an ad that stares back at you when you glance at it — analyzing your face, your age, and who you’re with.” This quote is taken from an article put on Immersive Labs, a company that builds adverting technology, is trying to make ads that can analyze who is looking at it, and then change appropriately to display something that will be appealing to him or her. There is software that they will attach to digital billboards that can track viewers’ demographic profiles, who they are with, and how long they look at the ad. For example, if you’re walking by a billboard on a chilly day, the ad might change to show a steaming hot cup of coca.

The CEO of Immersive Labs says that the real focus is artificial intelligence so that ads can learn over time. The idea it to make ads more personal so that they can appeal to those who see them. They plan to launch an Immersive-enabled billboard at John F. Kennedy airport, although the article doesn’t say when.

Sound a little creepy? Although these billboards uses facial recognition technology, they don’t identify the individual, although there is the technology to do so. Advertisers don’t want to freak out their audiences though. The information they do gather is “anonymous” and purely based on external data.

“You’re not going to get irrelevant ads ant more. You’re going to get ads you actually want to see.” the CEO says.

I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this. My first impression is to be amazed that technology has come so far to be able to do this but in the end I’m left with an unsettling feeling. Of course we live in a capitalist society where products need to be advertised if they are to be bought. I also understand that with the advance of technology, traditional ways of doing things become obsolete. But with this, I feel like it’s getting too personal.

On a daily basis we are bombarded with ads but a majority of them we don’t care about because what’s being advertised doesn’t apply to us. At least, that’s how it is for me. I can turn away from an ad the disinterests me. If it doesn’t capture my attention then I don’t think about it and I don’t consider purchasing it. Although the world is already screaming “Buy more stuff!”, I feel that if these new billboard ads come into reality, that saying will be shoved in our faces more than ever–because it’s personal.

I’m left with the thought that the more technology comes to play in our daily life, the more we are controlled by it. What better way to control what the masses buy than by appealing to their personal tastes? Advertisers don’t have to worry about making ads that can apply across a wide spectrum of people, they can make a specific ad that has a specific target and know that it will be effective.

Here’s a link to a video that shows these billboards in action.


Written by smpelle

April 26, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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