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I’ll keep saying this until I’m red in the face, Minority Report is not the future of outdoor advertising.

Some writers and presenters are prone to cut and paste Hollywood’s visionary concepts into their blogs or presentations without a basic understanding of user experience, business models, or the strategic imperatives that drive or block market-wide innovation. There was such a post on a new DOOH blog this week but I’ll spare linking to it, as the writer is clearly well intentioned and passionate about our industry and I don’t want to dissipate his positive energy. (I did post a response to his post, but at the time of writing, that hadn’t been accepted.)

In the classic Minority Report scene (linked below), as Tom Cruise’s character, John Anderson walks through a shopping mall, camera’s scan his retinas and trigger targeted advertisements displayed on public screens for brands including Guinness (“John Anderton you could use a Guinness right now…”) and American Express (John Anderton, member since 2037). This scene either rallies digital out of home scaremongers or beguiles media technology junkies. In reality it should not interest either camp.

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Does anyone really think this Minority Report user scenario is a future that consumers would embrace?

Today, the USER has the remote control NOT the brand. The connection between brand and consumer is a multi-way DIALOGUE not a one-way MONOLOGUE. (Sorry for the shouting caps – but actually this kind of thing fires me up!)

The CAN-SPAM act, which would probably encompass the user scenarios in Minority Report, makes it illegal to send any message to a consumer without their explicit permission – often requiring a double opt-in.

Location based services (sometimes also referred to as location based applications) are just restarting to get off the ground after several attempts in the past decade before the infrastructure and mobile devices were mature enough to provide compelling experiences. The best location based services are still being hotly debated by users as either being the start of a new media revolution (I take this side) or trivial games. The difference between user adoption of the successful location based services is that they are designed around what USESR want, not what brands want.

When a user subscribes to location-based services, they need ways to toggle those services on and off and/or control public and private modes as their mood and the context dictates. This is something software cannot determine automatically and get right all the time. Get it wrong once, and the user will turn off their service, or throw their phone through the digital screen!

For example, with Google Latitude, Google states before any application, website, or feature you’ve chosen to use can access your Latitude data, you must specifically grant access to the app developer and will see exactly what access or data they’re requesting.

Similarly with applications such as Foursquare, which encourage people to explore their neighborhoods and then reward them for “checking in” and telling their friends where they are, every check in can be set to private or public. On their website, Foursquare’s approach to the user’s privacy is spelled out very clearly and sensibly: “We take your privacy very seriously. That’s why every time you checkin we ask you whether you want to share your location with your friends, whether you want to push it to Twitter, whether you want to push it to Facebook.”

So the next time someone suggests that interactive digital out of home media or place based social media is in some way similar to or inspired by Minority Report, remind them that the plot of that movie was all about predicting a future crime and preventing it from happening. The crime of public spam will be prevented before it happens – even if my name isn’t Tom Cruise.

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One Response to “Why Minority Report Is Not the Future of Out Of Home Advertising”

  1. Jason Goldberg Says:

    Back in 2000 (2 years before the release of Minority Report), I deployed 4000 networked digital catalogs to PepBoys retail stores to help match shoppers/vehicle owners with the proper parts.

    In their home market (Philadelphia) they piloted an online customer affinity program, and we leveraged that by offering top customers a Radio KeyFob. Shoppers with a fob in their pocket would automatically be identified at any of the digital catalog, which would then become aware of what vehicles the shopper owned, date of last services performed, and offers/rewards that had been earned.

    Obviously, the shopper had to opt in by choosing to carry the fob (it would have been better if we gave them a way to turn the fob off). It was a great proof of concept, and very well received by PepBoys “Fleet Managers” (i.e. best customers).

    Of course none of us want to carry a pocket full of radio fobs, so it wasn’t scalable. But the today this same opt-in type of passive personalization can be achieved using the mobile phone as the digital wallet.

    I certainly agree that the experience needs to be opt in (and I need an easy way temporary opt out when I go shopping for that potentially embarrassing product), but I disagree with your implied premise that shoppers aren’t willing to trade their anonymity for a more successful shopping experience.

    Jason aka Retailgeek

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