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Curated Advertising Is Coming To Highway Billboards (technologyreview.com) 110

Curated advertising may be coming to a highway near you. "A startup called Synaps Labs has brought it to the physical world by combining high-speed cameras set up a distance ahead of the billboard (about 180 meters) to capture images of cars," reports MIT Technology Review. "Its machine-learning system can recognize in those images the make and model of the cars an advertiser wants to target. A bidding system then selects the appropriate advertising to put on the billboard as that car passes." From the report: There is a lot an advertiser can tell about you from the car you drive, says Synaps. Indeed, recent research from a group of university researchers and led by Stanford found that -- using machine vision and deep learning -- analyzing the make, model, and year of vehicles visible in Google Street View could accurately estimate income, race, and education level of a neighborhood's residents, and even whether a city is likely to vote Democrat or Republican. Synaps's business model is to sell its services to the owners of digital billboards. Digital billboard advertising rotates, and more targeted advertising can rotate more often, allowing operators to sell more ads. According to Synaps, a targeted ad shown 8,500 times in one month will reach the same number of targeted drivers (approximately 22,000) as a typical ad shown 55,000 times. In Russia, Synaps expects to be operating on 20 to 50 billboards this year. The company is also planning a test in the U.S. this summer, where there are roughly 7,000 digital billboards, a number growing at 15 percent a year, according to the company. (By contrast, there are 370,000 conventional billboards.) With a row of digital billboards along a road, they could roll the ads as the cars move along, making billboard advertising more like the storytelling style of television and the Internet, says Synaps's cofounder Alex Pustov.
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Curated Advertising Is Coming To Highway Billboards

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  • Hm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xlsior ( 524145 ) on Saturday March 04, 2017 @05:09AM (#53974911) Homepage
    Somehow, adding "storytelling" by actively trying to distract drivers sounds like it's likely to decrease road safety.
    • There is a lot an advertiser can tell about you from the car you drive, says Synaps. Indeed, recent research from a group of university researchers and led by Stanford found that -- using machine vision and deep learning -- analyzing the make, model, and year of vehicles visible in Google Street View could accurately estimate income, race, and education level of a neighborhood's residents, and even whether a city is likely to vote Democrat or Republican. lol, i can see what happens when a rothschild chopp
      • "i can see what happens when a rothschild chopper flies by in front of a billboard to drop off a hilton family member to the sanctuary resort in paradise valley, az which nicky has serious interest in. " oh, this chopper is owned by the bildergerg group, the one that basicly owns the worlds banking systems out of europe "."

        Fortunately, because the air over Phoenix is about forty percent news-'n-weather helicopters at any given time, your conspiracy chopper won't get very far.

      • by kent_eh ( 543303 )
        There is a lot an advertiser can tell about you from the car you drive

        There's a lot advertisers can tell about my company's cheap-ass fleet manager, maybe. That tells them nothing about me, though.
        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          Well, they might know you work for a company with a cheap-ass fleet manager. That tells them a lot about you.

    • They're just throwing hot buzzwords around, and "storytelling" is an attention grabber in certain business circles.

      Speaking of attention grabbing, I'm glad that in my country this sort of thing isn't allowed. Electronic billboards are allowed, but there are some strict limits on what you can display on them, especially regarding animations or transitions.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      This has to stop somewhere. Make a fucking law to stop this shit. And what a stupid fucking name.

    • Re:Hm... (Score:5, Funny)

      by ProzacPatient ( 915544 ) on Saturday March 04, 2017 @07:37AM (#53975183)

      A man -- a miss

      A car -- a curve

      He kissed the miss

      But missed the curve

      Burma-Shave

    • You drive along, you've gotta pee.
      Billboards changing what you see.
      Looking for that restaurant with a washroom
      But now it shows a car going zoom-zoom
      Suddenly you're saying "oh, fuck me!"
      Your shame is there for all to see.
      It's now too late to stop and pee.

      Burma Shave

    • Exactly, precisely what you're saying; this sounds like a recipe for 'distracted driving', and we have laws on the books prohibiting that.
    • Only if you actually look at the sign on the side of the road! I focus on the traffic and the road only and care not a bit about anything not directly in front of or to the side on the vehicle I am piloting at the time. If I am distracted by a sign with targeted adverts like this I will simply make a mental note of the company for which the ad is for and be sure to not do business with them in the future. If we all did this on a daily basis the rapid results would be removal of the systems from road side
  • I drive a pimp mobile, what type of ads am I going to get?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 04, 2017 @05:21AM (#53974927)

    See a billboard in the distance. As I get closer, it changes.

    "YOU! DRIVING THE IMPALA! WE SEE YOU ENJOY HARDCORE PORNOGRAPHY!"

    Picture of me from facebook is displayed.

    "PLEASE CONSIDER CHATURBATE THE NEXT TIME YOU SPANK IT!!"

    The picture of a monkey being spanked by a large hand was overkill.

    Thanks Advertising!

  • It's then about time, that cars drive themselves, so we don't have to watch that crap.

  • by dwywit ( 1109409 ) on Saturday March 04, 2017 @05:29AM (#53974947)

    and software to "curate" your ads, why not go further and identify you by licence plate?

    Tie your licence plate to your vehicle's onboard 3G/4G account, and via that to your social media (a fair assumption that you've been silly enough to use your social media gmail/hotmail address to activate your vehicle's 3G/4G access when you bought it, or even used that gmail/hotmail address as a recovery email if forced to use a 'customer@gm.com' address), and you've got access to a wealth of information.

    And don't believe that {social media} wouldn't sell the contents of your profile to the highest bidder. Do any social media accounts ask for vehicle licence plate number?

    Maybe it won't be long before social media start to ask you for your vehicle's account details "to serve you better", perhaps in the guise of "if you have an accident, we can notify your friends!"

    Hell, that'd be a damn sight more accurate for curated ads than just the car make and model.

    My next car will be pre-1980, european, manual, and two-seater. I will of course upgrade it if necessary with radial tyres, and decent brakes.

    And replace all the poor-design or faulty components with something more modern - but it won't have a computer in it.

    • My next car will be pre-1980, european, manual, and two-seater. I will of course upgrade it if necessary with radial tyres, and decent brakes.

      Are you going to put a rollcage in it, too? You're a thin red paste in a serious crash, especially small offset.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        This sort of Porche will be safe in a crash and even better it's a 5 seater, plus sort of hybrid though the fuel economy sucks.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VK_4501_(P)
        Might need a fire extinguisher of two.
    • Mr. Dwywit: Is that your wife?

      You need Tinder!

    • Hopefully this will prompt more states to drop the front-tag requirement.

    • I parked next to a Volkswagen Beetle the other day, somewhere around a '72 model. Four seats, I suppose, but otherwise it meets your standards. Wonder what kind of ads they'd throw at that?

  • Call me stupid, but when there is lively traffic, the billboards are in full view of several cars at a time. So the update may be slow, so that e.g., ten or twenty cars see the same advertisement that is triggered by the first car? Or does every car get its own advertisement, so that you see a constantly flickering of different ads?

    Paai

    • They will target whoever has the most money. They will only be allowed to change the display at a certain maximum speed, perhaps by law but also by agreements with advertisers who want their ad to be displayed for full segments of time. The order in which the ads are displayed will simply be altered; they'll cycle through them until they see a vehicle that implies it's worth actually targeting, and then they'll deliver a targeted ad for the normal period, then return to cycling until the next event.

    • Call me stupid, but when there is lively traffic, the billboards are in full view of several cars at a time. So the update may be slow, so that e.g., ten or twenty cars see the same advertisement that is triggered by the first car? Or does every car get its own advertisement, so that you see a constantly flickering of different ads?

      Paai

      I would guess they have a tiered pricing structure so the highest paying ad gets shown; but you bring up a valid point, is the ad designed to be read or merely expose a target to the ad? We have a lot of electronic billboards and they change so frequently that if one catches my eye the ad is often gone before I can deduce who it is for.

    • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
      they are targeting certain cars, he high end Mercedes, the Bentley, the Aston Martin,

      they don't care about your civic
    • Who says it has to look at the nearest car?

      It'll see cars coming and assess the demographics of then next batch of cars, then deploy an ad that will earn the most revenue for the billboard owner for that batch.

      The ad will be on display as your batch comes into optimal viewing distance and cycled to the next ad for the next batch when your group passes out of optimal distance.

      And that's just the easiest bit of processing to do. You could get fancier and allow for cutting the cycle short if a particularly pr

      • by paai ( 162289 )

        Yes, I can see how you can apply different algoritms to get an optimal distribution of the ads over the passing cars.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A lot of states require license plates in the front of a vehicle. A photos of your plate numbers and driver/passenger photo gets sent to advertisers. Get ready for the junk mail to pile up, let alone less privacy in the world.

  • Digital Burma Shave signs.
  • by lavaboy ( 21282 )
    It's been done... ... and everyone knows... ... targeted billboard advertising blows.
                          -... Burma Shave
  • Send More Money: Fuck you buddy

  • Leela: Didn't you have ads in the 20th century?
    Fry: Well, sure, but not in our dreams. Only on TV and radio. And in magazines and movies and at ball games, on buses and milk cartons and T-shirts and bananas and written on the sky. But not in dreams. No, sir-ee!
    Bender: Quit squawking, flesh wad. Nobody's forcing you to buy anything.

  • I think I speak for all of us when I say, "Yay, more advertising!"

    • No, same number of advertisements, just targeted toward you or the guy behind you. It's not like the billboard was blank before they started targeting ads.

      -
      • No, same number of advertisements

        No, because now the advertisements will change, it won't just be one static ad.

        There will be lots of ads waiting to be seen and you'll see at least one of them, if not more.

        • You think these electronic billboards were left static for extended periods of time? The advertisers spent money to have their ads displayed and the display rotates at a constant rate to display the most ads it can. The only difference would be the ads would be targeted toward the users closest to the display. When no target information is present, the ads go back to their sequential order. Same number of ads just a targeted sequence.

          -
          • Same number of ads just a targeted sequence.

            No. Either way you look at it, this means more ads. No one would spend the money for this for the same number of ads. I can guarantee you that among other selling points ("targeted ads!") one of them will be that they can display more ads and therefore make (charge) more money.

  • Am I the only one who looks at an electronic billboard and thinks "What a sweet target!"?

    And not just for shooting at- they'd probably be satisfying to hack into or paint over with some kind of thick, durable coating.

    But either way, every time I see one I'm filled with the urge to destroy or vandalize it.

  • The only place I can think of where I've seen billboards is in Las Vegas. Most of those were for strip clubs. Would there really be a market for these?
  • There are entire countries where billboards are illegal (Brazil), countries where they are illegal outside of cities (France), and many cities where they are forbidden (like my own). Why ? Well, it breaks down to this: either they work or they don't work. If they don't work, then what's the point ? Get rid of them. If they work, then it means they steal some of your attention span while you should be paying attention to your driving, so they should be illegal. And they are ugly.
    • You forgot the God money. If it creates income, the God money says it is good. "Poor" farmer folk with nothing but (millions of dollars worth of) land can get income from these billboards to help them pay their taxes. These same "poor" farmer folk also have lots of lobbying power with the legislatures. As long as advertisers are willing to pay for billboards, there will be people ready to take the money.

    • There are entire countries where billboards are illegal (Brazil), countries where they are illegal outside of cities (France), and many cities where they are forbidden (like my own). Why ? Well, it breaks down to this: either they work or they don't work. If they don't work, then what's the point ? Get rid of them. If they work, then it means they steal some of your attention span while you should be paying attention to your driving, so they should be illegal. And they are ugly.

      On a more fundamental level, Billboards are coerced participation in advertising - something that is contrary to basic notions of freedom, and thus inconsistent with fundamental rights in any society that claims to be free.

      Just as it is appropriate to prevent businesses from releasing chemical pollutants into the environment, so too is it appropriate to prevent businesses from releasing marketing pollution into the social environment. Even the size and nature of business signs intended to identify a busine

  • I don't think curated means what you think it means.

    This just sounds – to me – like targeted ads.

    And for really targeted ads, use that camera to look at my license/number plate, and show me a really targeted ad. Maybe you could do what google does and show me more ads for things that I shopped for and already bought last week. Because I really need a second kitchen stand mixer. While I'm driving on the highway.

    • You seem to think that you will be singled out, and advertised to directly. I don't think that's the case. In order for billboard makers to make any money, the ads need to be seen by as many people as possible. You think that during rush-hour that a billboard will know exactly who each driver is, single him out, and ignore the rest? Nope!
      • Obvious Man is obvious. No, I don't think that. Nor do I seem to think that. And nothing I wrote was even the least bit suggestive that I think advertisers are going to "ignore the rest."

        But thanks for playing.

  • ... Burma Shave [burma-shave.org].

    We don't

    Know how

    To split an atom

    But as to whiskers

    Let us at 'em

    Burma-Shave

  • That's just what we need more of ... distracted drivers trying to read bright moving images on a billboard while driving at 55mph.
    • That's just what we need more of ... distracted drivers trying to read bright moving images on a billboard while driving at 55mph.

      Bingo.

      Every time I see one of these things from the freeway I wonder why they aren't illegal. They're an obvious hazard in terms of unnecessary distractions. There is no way to ignore them which means you're not able to pay full attention to the traffic around you. Seriously, I can't understand why they were ever allowed to be built.

  • I'm going to find one of these and see which ads it shows be while I drive either my 1979 FJ40 or Panamera.

  • Advertising scum just keep ramping the scumminess up, don't they?

  • How much do I pay to get a billboard of Trojan Magnum condoms every time I pass?
  • by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwock.poetic@com> on Saturday March 04, 2017 @01:07PM (#53976339)

    When the camera sees my car, the ads will be for Goodwill and Dollar stores. There might be promos for retirement homes or funeral services. Maybe a pretty girl will show on the billboard hawking Viagra. But most likely the policeman behind the billboard will pull me over to impound my tired old car.

  • I'm sure they'll be cross-referencing web habits via Cell phone radio/Mac addresses as well. Why not commit to total creeper stalking if you're going to stalk?
  • Haven't we seen this, (or a variation) every year for oh, the last 5 years?
    Just Sayin'.

  • When it sees a police car, does it change to an advertisement for donuts?

    (the mention of Russia made me think of this, because of the police-detecting bus-stop billboard)

  • by Macdude ( 23507 ) on Saturday March 04, 2017 @03:46PM (#53977003)

    So I can't answer a phone call because it would cause me to be distracted, but big-business corp can distract the hell out of every driver on the road and that's OK because.... money?

  • By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising...kill yourself. Thank you. Just planting seeds, planting seeds is all I'm doing. No joke here, really. Seriously, kill yourself, you have no rationalisation for what you do, you are Satan's little helpers. Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself now. Now, back to the show. Seriously, I know the marketing people: 'There's gonna be a joke comin' up.' There's no fuckin' joke. Suck a tail pipe, hang yourself...borrow a pistol from an NRA buddy, do something...rid the world of your evil fuckin' presence. —Bill Hicks

    • by Baki ( 72515 )

      Indeed, advertisement is nothing else than misinforming people at their own expense. It is a scourge of society.
      The marketing budgets is part of "production cost" and in the end is paid by all consumers, like a tax you cannot avoid.
      For this taxation, we receive false information and are encouraged to act (mostly) against our own interests.

      I'd rather just pay for stuff, honestly and up front, instead of this hidden cost that you almost cannot avoid.

      Marketing is mostly a non-productive distraction for society

  • Advertisers evolve to target "consumers" ever more subtle, trying to influence them subconsiously.

    I'm sure the targets will evolve defenses, as noone wants to be influences this way, and made to act against our own best interests, i.e. in the interests of companies instead of our own.

    The more refined the advertisement methods become, the more people will start to distrust everything.
    Potentially this will have negative effects on society as a whole.

    This type of influencing should be stopped and prevented.

  • There is a lot an advertiser can tell about you from the car you drive, says Synaps.

    There's a lot Synaps will be able to tell about public response when people start destroying their cameras. In most cases sneaking up from behind, probably, though there's ample evidence that many people are willing to commit crimes on camera.

    Not that I would do such a thing, of course. But some folks are likely to take offense, and digital billboards are already hugely annoying. Add privacy invasion (real or perceived) to that and you're asking for trouble.

I haven't lost my mind -- it's backed up on tape somewhere.

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