Hello, [Insert Your Name Here], Buy Our Stuff!

Personal digital advertising is already somewhat upon us.  All you have to do is browse the web for a while and it would be hard to not see that the ads that pop up on many web pages are tailored to your previous searches.  Technology can now take a look at your browsing history and show you advertising based on your interests.  Netflix has similar technology which gives you suggestions based on movies or shows that you have watched and ranked highly in the past, as does Facebook, based on the things you like or links you click on.

Moving forward from online activity, researchers are developing technology that could feel more like a scene from Minority Report, as Tom Cruise walks through a department store or subway station and is bombarded with in-store ads personalized to his taste based on previous shopping.  Well, science fiction is (once again) taking another step to becoming reality.

One day, you could walk into a Tim Hortons donut shop and the menu boards will change based on your interests to give you a personalized menu for browsing.  This technology may feel like something out of Minority Report, when Tom Cruise walks through a department store or subway station and is bombarded personalized ads, but science fiction is (once again) taking another step to becoming reality.

Cineplex Digital is headquartered in London, Ontario, and has supplied roughly 33,000 advertising screens to various retailers around the world, including Tim Hortons and McDonalds restaurants and banks.  The feeling in the advertising community is that, in today’s world, advertising must be flashy and kinetic in order to get people’s attention and keep it away from social media.

Recently, Sport Check opened a store in the West Edmonton mall that has over 800 screens in the store.  These allow you wave a shoe in front of the screen in order to get more information about the shoe (or other items).  Screens in store also allow you to interact with them and personalize your team jersey or see photos mailed in to the store from local community sports teams.  The rest of the screens flash advertising from many different manufacturers, hoping that you’ll spot something that interests you.

Cineplex Digital is looking to further advance this kind of advertising, using mobile devices.  Installed apps would communicate with the store’s computers and provide you personalized ads either on your phone or on the screens.  It could provide customers with suggestions that complement their shopping by providing other products related to the store.

Services like this not only provide customers with additional suggestions, but they also cut down on the perceived wait times at stores.  Just yesterday, I was in line at a local Pizza Pizza showing movie trailers on one of its digital boards.  I stood and watched the trailers and hardly noticed the time it took to get the order ready.

Restaurants are even getting in on the act, using digital tables which allow customers to order directly from the table top with interactive menus.  Some tables even allow for credit cards to be placed on the table in order to pay for the orders.  In the meantime, patrons can play table top games while they wait for their orders.  I’m sure it’s only a small step for tables to be able to show sporting events, or allow patrons to set up an account that tracks their orders and shows them other foods they may be interested in.

Although it may be a far cry from the retinal scans of Minority Report, the concept itself is upon us.  Depending on your views, that could be both good and bad.  I get irritated with pop-up ads everywhere, but at the same time, personalized advertising does work.  I’ve clicked on many ads that I’ve seen in my browser, leading me to something I might not otherwise have found, and I have watched digital screens while standing in line at a restaurant.  As technology moves forward, so does the advertising industry.  Regardless of how you feel about advertising, it’s clearly here to stay and we will start to see more and more of it used in creative ways.


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