Manchester-based OOH adtech company Bidooh recently announced that it will deploy 3,000 smart ad boards across Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The Financial Times likened its propriety “facial recognition” tech to that in the film ‘Minority Report’ - but Bidooh's boss has played down this comparison.
The article compared the tech to the intrusive, hyper-personalised advertising exhibited in the 2002 dystopian movie and raised concerns over privacy, with one FT reader asking if he still owned the copyright to his face. However, Abdul Alim, Bidooh chief executive and co-founder, has walked back the comparisons, telling The Drum the technology is more about “facial analysis” rather than “facial recognition”.
To explain: over the next three years, Bidooh will amass over 2,000 screens across the Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovakia; a further 1,000 will launch in Romania. These will be placed in areas of high footfall, like shopping centres, malls, cinemas, theme park, offices, parks, petrol stations and airports.
The initiative will see these digital billboards fitted with cameras, which will scan the faces of people in its proximity. The tech will “give brands, advertisers and mall owners a deeper understanding of the visitor demographics," said Alim.
It will collect information about visitors including gender, age, emotion, facial hair, and the use of sunglasses or glasses from a range from five to 15 meters. With this data, it can identify marketing segments and deliver relevant ads to them in real-time.
For instance, a beard could warrant an ad for Harry's Razors to be displayed, glasses might be a signal for Specsavers to buy a placement.
The entire process reportedly takes three seconds. In this time, it scans via the camera, identifies the audience demographic, then locates and delivers the relevant creative. This speed is largely aided by the fact ads are locally stored in the panel and are updated frequently.
The belief is that the system will increase the effectiveness of ads
As the technology matures, it will implement deeper segmentation such as the detection of hair colour, whether someone is single, a couple, or with a family, to the approximate height and body shape of those scanned.
With concerns over consumer privacy heightened in wake of the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal and several high-profile data breaches, Alim was quick to stress that the company is GDPR compliant and that automatically anonymises any data it gathers.
He boasted that it's capable of delivering “99% accuracy on the gender and 90% accuracy on age”. He made the added claim that it “disrupts the established but notoriously slow process of out of home advertising by offering a direct, real-time solution.”
The platform also looks to tackle a lack of trust in the media buying space. Clients pay for the service (by the second) using DOOH Tokens, a blockchain enabled digital currency.
“The use of blockchain technology allows us to offer a platform which is fully transparent, thereby eliminating the industry’s historical reliance on trust, delayed or inaccurate reporting," Alim said.
"Whenever an advert is displayed on a screen, the time-stamp and view data will be recorded on the blockchain, meaning that advertisers can be sure their adverts are being displayed and seen in real-time and that data is stored on an immutable ledger and cannot be manipulated for the benefit of the screen owner or advertiser.”
He added: “We believe this method of storage and transparency will become the industry standard and we’re building a public blockchain that can be used and trusted by the DOOH industry as a whole.”
The latest deal represents a massive expansion of Bidooh’s presence from a 16 screen pilot in the UK, and 27 screens in Bosnia and Herzegovinia.
On why Eastern Europe has proven to be a hotbed for the company’s investment, he said: “We are experiencing significant commercial demand from Eastern Europe because there is a proliferation of shopping malls in these countries which are seeking the latest technological advancements to generate advertising revenues.”
With this offering, the company hopes to unlock the wealth of small local businesses that are not yet advertising, due to the barrier to entry and the cost implications.
Alim concluded: “A core objective for Bidooh has always been to ensure that smaller businesses enjoy the same access to out of home advertising as their bigger competitors. The Bidooh platform allows advertisers to buy space in 10-second placements, with no minimum order or long-term commitment, meaning that advertisers of all sizes can promote themselves on our screens.”