Cell Phone Tracking Billboards

In this day and age, we’ve all experienced targeted ads online- ads that are tailored to you based off of your browsing history, demographic, and many other factors. It’s all too common to see these ads on major sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, and when it happens, nobody bats an eye. But what happens when this common internet phenomenon starts leaking into everyday life?

This is exactly what outdoor advertising company Clear Channel Outdoor Americas is looking to do. Clear Channel, along with various mobile companies such as AT&T and Place IQ, has announced its new line of billboards that will track the behavior of everyone who walks or drives past them. This means that the ridiculous used-auto superstore billboard you pass every day could be unsuspectedly guzzling up your mobile browsing data.

In the past, billboard companies relied heavily on broad traffic and demographic data to tell who would be passing by each billboard. This data could be anything from speculations as to where the passers-by live, or the most common demographics that pass by a particular billboard. Based on this general info, companies that wished to advertise via billboard would have a way to tell where their ads would be better received.

Now in the age of mass data collection, Clear Channel and its partners are parsing data about consumer behavior directly from your phone. While this allows advertisers and businesses a more effective way to place their ads and track how successful they are through increases in revenue or store visits, the entire process seems a bit intrusive.

To be clear, Clear Channel’s new billboards can’t follow individual drivers or track specific customers like a GPS. Instead, the billboards gather location data via Clear Channel’s partner companies in order to learn more about the people that pass by their billboards. So, if you’ve been shopping for shoes all day on your phone, don’t expect the billboard you pass every day on the way home from work to suddenly have the pair of shoes you’ve been looking for (but we wouldn’t rule it out for the near future).

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