Personalized OOH: Precision targeting comes to China Post screens

Developed by Omnicom and Heli Media, screens spread across nation will gather data on passersby to target ads

SHANGHAI — China's official postal service has deployed a comprehensive upgrade of its 20,000 outdoor smartscreens with new facial-recognition capability, mobile interactivity, data management and campaign-optimization features.

Cameras attached to China Post screens across the top 20 cities in the country will track the directional movements of eyes, the number of glances passersby give and the dwell time of each glance while also judging the "biometric signature" of each individual.

The system takes 60 images per second and compares these against a database of biometric signatures, then marries the assigned signature of the viewer with programmatic-buying information such as audience type, demographic targets and location-specific filters.

This in turn triggers dynamic content. Take, for example, an automobile ad. A brand may choose to show male consumers what's under the car hood, while female audiences see information about fuel efficiency and safety.

The personalization of the ad also allows the public to scan QR codes or tap NFC interfaces to receive e-coupons from the advertiser along with instructions for conversion online or offline to result in a closed sales loop.

Omnicom Media Group in China has been working with Heli Media for the past two years in a go-to-market partnership for this deployment, the first ahead of another 60,000 screens committed for 2016 with other partners including Longfan Media.

This digital out-of-home automated advertising platform is known as IMON, for which Heli (which uses the technology of Quividi) owns an exclusive worldwide distribution license. The screens will be further enhanced in later phases with through-screen payment and augmented-reality features.

To date, the IMON system has a bank of over 5 billion biometric signatures stored by race, age and gender in 50 countries for comparative refinement, said Jason Perry, group operations director of Heli Media Group.

The system does not store actual images of the audience members, so there is no privacy infringement, according to Perry, who said the biometric signatures provide no knowledge of what the individual looks like or who they are.

Chinese laws are very clear about taking a person's picture without permission. Paraphrased below, from both the "General Principles of Civil Law" and "The Supreme People's Court's Interpretation of the Implementation of the General Principles of Civil Law," the use of a citizen’s portrait for profit without his consent shall be prohibited and identified as invasion of right of portrait.

According to Doug Pearce, CEO of Omnicom Media Group Greater China, the system offers the screen owner, the media buyer, the ad agency and brand advertisers an upgraded solution to overcome historic OOH inadequacies.

"There was a real lack of understanding who your audiences are, but now you can put a number to it, say, 5,800 people have seen your ad — definitively. You're not buying general headcounts," Pearce said. "Bad programmatic buying is a race to the bottom with real-time bidding. Good programmatic buying is when you can quantify and qualify your audiences. In the past, there were no set rules for tagging data and so no way to cross-reference different datasets," he said.

The capability to buy outdoor ads programmatically also levels the playing field for smaller screen owners who have been operating in the shadow of larger ones, Pearce said.

This will probably cost more in the short term in terms of media rates, but almost zero waste makes up for the higher pricing, he pointed out. There will be no "bad spots" because the system programmatically chooses the best screens across the entire network to suit specific goals.

"Locations with low audiences will simply never be chosen by the system for ad placement," added Perry. Heli Media charges a service fee (percentage of total ad cost) onto the inventory pricing placed by the screen owners, going beyond charging advertising by time or traffic estimates.

"I call this bringing truth to advertising," Perry said.

This article first appeared on

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