We’ve all seen Minority Report and wondered whether this (scarily) personalised out-of-home advertising is possible.

Clear Channel, one of the largest outdoor advertising operators, has just announced the purchase of over 2000 phone boxes from Arqiva, which will be replaced with super high-tech kiosks kitted out with daylight-visible digital screens and a whole host of other features beneficial to the casual high street moocher.

Clear Channel has also promised that through its Play iQ ad inventory platform, advertisers can buy real-time, contextually-relevant content that will be displayed on these digital screens.

The foundations for super personalised out-of-home are being set, but I don’t think we’re ready for retina scanners just yet.

What’s Possible with These Contextually-Relevant Ads?

Let’s think a moment about that ‘contextually-relevant’ claim. What signals are available to an advertiser to enable programmatic ad buying?

It might be very possible for the new high-tech ad kiosk to use beacons and other mobile technology to grab personal information from passers-by, but it would be lunacy for a brand to use that information to power an advert visible to an entire high street.

So leaves advertisers with much less personal signals, like the weather, the news, notable local events, time of day and so on. But these signals still present some interesting opportunities for location-based marketing.

Let’s pretend we run a small independent cinema and because we’re fans of sci-fi and Tom Cruise, we have a Monday night showing of Minority Report. But it’s 20 minutes until the showing starts and we have 100 empty seats. With this new technology, we would be able to place adverts showing heavily discounted ticket offers on kiosks within a 20 minute walk.

Of course, the same tactic could be applied to restaurants, comedy clubs, sporting events and essentially any other business model that revolves around putting bums on seats.

Is Programmatic Out-Of-Home Right for Everyone?

In a word, no.

As with our independent cinema example, there are definitely business models that would benefit from using programmatic out-of-home.

But out-of-home has traditionally been the domain of big brands with big budgets. I don’t expect the programmatic version being any different.

And for businesses that have a very specific audience or a very niche product, the ROI on out-of-home will make it very difficult to move money away from things like search, email marketing or even programmatic online display advertising.

If you do believe that programmatic out-of-home could be right for your business, here are some things to consider:

  • Is your product/service available within a reasonable distance of the ad unit?
  • Is demand for your product/service affected by real-world signals like the weather or local events?
  • Do you have a way to track revenue back to the ad unit? For example, location-specific discount codes.
  • Do you have budget available for experimentation?

What do you think? Is programmatic out-of-home a good development in advertising? Or is it one step closer to ads chasing you down the high street? Let us know @rocketmill