Minority Report Billboards


“Billboards are, for the most part, still a relic of old-world media, and the best guesses about viewership numbers come from foot traffic counts or highway reports, neither of which guarantees that the people passing by were really looking at the billboard, or that they were the ones sought out.

Now, some entrepreneurs have introduced technology to solve that problem. They are equipping billboards with tiny cameras that gather details about passers-by — their gender, approximate age and how long they looked at the billboard. These details are transmitted to a central database.

Behind the technology are small start-ups that say they are not storing actual images of the passers-by, so privacy should not be a concern. The cameras, they say, use software to determine that a person is standing in front of a billboard, then analyze facial features (like cheekbone height and the distance between the nose and the chin) to judge the person’s gender and age. So far the companies are not using race as a parameter, but they say that they can and will soon.

The goal, these companies say, is to tailor a digital display to the person standing in front of it — to show one advertisement to a middle-aged white woman, for example, and a different one to a teenage Asian boy.” [New York Times]

Dem Chops: The Other White Meat

“Power and money suffered a rare setback in the Senate on Thursday as Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., stopped the top Senate Democrat from inserting a favor for the billboard industry into a must-pass emergency funding bill.

The move was a defeat for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who championed the provision, and for the Outdoor Advertising Association. The industry group’s members and their employees gave more than $167,000 to congressional candidates in the last election cycle and spent more than $800,000 lobbying Congress last year.” — USAToday

Ending the war is the most important thing on Harry Reid’s to-do list…just behind taking care of a big contributor/lobbyist.

Do campaign yard signs work?

Campaign Yard SignsPerhaps what I really want to know is how they work. Front yards bristle with these things leading up to any election (local or national). So they must work at some level but I can’t get my mind around how.

The obvious explanation would be: The candidate with the most signs has the most support and therefore deserves mine. Only in America could that sort of mindless herd logic make sense.

Or, perhaps: Lester down the street has a sign for Congressman Boil…I know and trust Lester…so, Congressman Boil must be the guy to vote for.

I’m old enough to remember a time when yard signs had to be assembled by hand, one at a time. You had posters printed and spent hours tacking (don’t ask, it’s obsolete technology) or stapling them to wooden stakes. The first good rain would turn the sign into a soggy mess. Today these eyesores are stamped out by the thousands, impervious to the elements.

In rural areas like where I grew up, the “big brother” to the yard sign was a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood, displayed along rural highways and intersections.

The popularity of these little “billboards” might have more to do with economics. Buying TV and radio time is probably beyond most local budgets.

I guess the thing that bothers me about all of this is the absence of ideas. These things don’t tell us what the candidate thinks about the issues. Or the quality of their thinking, for that matter.

As long as our leaders can get elected by placing the most brightly colored signs in front lawns (or airing the most 30 second TV and radio “spots”), we’re gonna get empty-headed, venal men and women running our lives.

More at Answers.com

Internet advertising closing in on radio

The Internet will receive a greater share of global advertising spending this year than do outdoor outlets such as billboards, and it is set to overtake radio soon. That’s one of the findings in a report by ZenithOptimedia, a media planning and buying firm. The growth is being driven by smaller brands, which are turning to the Internet because it is relatively cheap and can target their markets effectively. (see The Long Tail) The company said it expected the spending share gap between the Internet and radio to narrow from 3.9 percentage points in 2005 to 0.7 in 2008. (Yahoo! News/Reuters)

If you understand how to market and sell online, this is not necessarily a bad thing. If you don’t… then pray that these are new dollars that won’t impact your sales.

Tiny little billboards

Mic FlagMic flags are those little plastic signs that radio and TV reporters attach to the end of their microphones. It’s a little harmless self-promotion. Let’s the public know that KXYZ News or TV24 was on-the-scene. And we radio guys love it when our mic flag appears on the 6 o’clock local TV newscast or the front page of the Daily Bugle.

Now, our listeners already know we were at the big news conference because they’re listening to us. So the purpose of the mic flag would seem to be to let the TV audience or the newspaper readers know we were there. Isn’t this a little like having one of the newspaper guys come up while we’re recording an audio interview and whispering –just loudly enough to be heard– “News Scene 13!” so it could be heard in the background of our piece when it airs? No? Different somehow? Okay.

So let’s say mic flags are a good thing. How big should they be? The size of a pack of Kools? Bigger? How about, as big as possible and still fit in the little satchel with my recorder?

You see? This is why I’m not running a business. I’m terrible at self-promotion. I hate tooting my horn. And I really hate tooting my horn at someone else’s recital.

Accidental Death Remediation

One of the ten thousand billboards blighting Interstate 70 reads: Homicide, Suicide, and Accidental Death Remediation. Barb and I speculated about the services provided and she got it first try. I couldn’t get past, “Who the hell would be willing to do such a job?” I found the answer on their website:

“It’s a job no one else wants to do: cleaning up human blood and tissue and getting rid of the stench that often follows death. But a Menifee mother and daughter have started a business to do just that. Calling their business Crime & Trauma Scene Specialists, Debbie Haar and her mother, Shirley MacNeill will clean up homicide or suicide scenes, homes where someone has died a natural death or even what they call “pack-rat” homes that need special care. The two are also trained to do extensive cleaning of medical offices and funeral homes and can remove tear gas or pepper spray from inside buildings.”

Walnut bowls and T-shirt shops

When the “outdoor advertising” boys thought Missouri might pass some restrictive laws against billboards, they got busy and started throwing up billboards all over the state, trying to get in under the wire. Turns out they had nothing to worry about. Their lobbyists came through. If Mount Rushmore was in Missouri, we’d have it plastered with billboards. If we were blessed with the Grand Canyon, we’d trash it up. I was born in Missouri and have lived here most of my life but I gotta say, we are one low-rent bunch of trailer park hillbillies. We are walnut bowls and T-shirt shops. It’s not enough that we have the worst highways in the country, we line them with monstrous billboards. I imagine travelers from more enlightened states passing through… “Honey! Wake up! You gotta see this! Nothing but billboards for as far as you can see.”