SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Billboards just got smart.
Clear Channel Outdoor America has launched Radar, a new way for billboards to see who is driving by and deliver that data to advertisers.
Before, advertisers relied on traffic counts and census data to decide where to place their billboards. Those were the dumb billboard days, so to speak.
The new Radar-enhanced billboards use a smart system that can track mobile phones as they pass by and aggregate that information to determine whether those traffic patterns fit certain targeted demographics.
It sounds like the new billboards have eyes, but Jason King, a spokesperson for Clear Channel Outdoor says its not that Orwellian.
“This is about targeting anonymous audience segments, there’s no exchange of consumers’ personal data” says King, adding, “You are already being targeted every time you go online, or when use cable.” He says that information is far more specific.
Radar-enhanced billboards can’t necessarily determine a viewer’s age or gender, but they can determine certain patterns. Clear Channel has partnered with third-party beta providers like AT&T Data Patterns, PlaceIQ and paid tracking apps like Placed to make those patterns apparent.
“For example, it could determine that I’m a soccer dad because my travel patterns fit the patterns of other soccer dads and tell advertisers, ‘here is a route traveled by a high percentage of soccer dads, so you should buy here, instead of near that car dealership,” says King.
Radar-enhanced billboards went on sale Monday in Clear Channels’ 11 major markets including the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York.
Billboards may be only the beginning. Radar-enhanced advertising could soon begin cropping on bus stops and city streets.
CBSSF.com writer, producer Jan Mabry is also executive producer and host of The Bronze Report. She lives in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter @janmabr.