One of the more memorable scenes from the 2002 movie Minority Report was a dystopian view of advertising in the year 2054. The protagonist, John Anderton, walks through a mall, where retina scanners match his identity with purchase history so that billboards can pitch personal ads to him as he walks by.
Consumers have been dreading this and marketers have been salivating over this ever since. We won’t have to wait until 2054. Much of the technology is already here. Retinal scanners may not be sophisticated enough (yet), but mobile phones are prime time ready.
A marketing firm called Renew caught flak last week in London for using WiFi-equipped recycling bins to track all the smart phones that passed by. The devices sniffed out certain information, including a MAC address unique to each phone.
Renew has referred to these MAC addresses as “cookies” for the offline world. In the same way that browser cookies prompt particular web site ads, these offline cookies could drive personalized billboards based on the information it knows about you.
While Renew pulled back from the trial, there will be more experimentation in personal advertising ahead. We can expect a lot of friction between privacy advocates and marketers as the technology evolves.
As with any new technology, the opportunity is in how the marketer wields it. Channeled positively, user tracking can be a welcome extension of the brand, like the Nike FuelBand. Channeled negatively, it can lead to the worst of invasive marketing tactics.
In any case, marketers need to rememberer that we can do better than a $1.00 off offer for Preparation H.
I’m interested in your thoughts on where marketing and advertising is headed.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)