What “Minority Report” Taught the Advertising Industry

March 18, 2009

minority-reportMovies can teach us a thing or two about ourselves, our world, our past, and our dreams.  And sometimes, a movie can even teach us a thing or two about our future.

Truthfully, most movies that portray the future try to show the unimaginable, and make us think that its a possibility.  Sometimes they will get it right, other times they will get it wrong, but most times the creator just wants it to look like “the future”.

In the movie, Minority Report, with Tom Cruise, we saw the future of advertising; a future that is approaching very quickly.  Throughout the movie we see that all citizens of this futuristic world are tracked and followed by eye scanners.  In essence, we know where everyone is at all times as long as they have eyes.  Using this technology, ads are served to each person individually as they walk by a “billboard” like computer screen (which are everywhere).

Essentially, the advertisement know not only who is looking at an ad, but who is close enough and could see it if attracted in that direction.  It can use this information to “call out” your name and change or customize the ad to you.  Sounds like a winner to me.

Back to reality. There are a few trends in advertising that suggest we may be headed in the “Minority Report” direction.

First, late last week Google announced their new interest based advertising model for their Adsense programs.  The gist of this new idea is to monitor a person’s online behavior to discover the types of things they are interested in, then serve them ads for those things when visiting a site that uses Adsense.  In addition, anyone with a Google account can customize their interests in order to filter the ads that they will inevitably see.  This is where online advertising was always headed.

But what about “offline” or “traditional” advertising.  Well that is the second thing.  A company by the name of Tru-Media Solutions is just one of a few technology companies that have started putting small cameras in billboard advertisements.  These cameras are used to “monitor” and “recognize” who is looking at the ad.  This technology, combined with billboard screens that can change from one ad to another, could be used exactly the same way that we see the ads in the movie.

The technology in the cameras is still a long way from perfect, but it can monitor things like gender, height, and weight already.  Soon, we will see these cameras with even more capabilities, and ads that are ever more customizable.

This is the future of advertising, an industry that needs to become personalized to become sustainable. There are no more mass markets, where a basic commercial can make you profitable, or where a market analyst can tell you which three magazines to advertise in to reach your “target”.  Now, a successful advertiser needs to reach the potential customer on a personal level to get their attention.  And these are just a few ways that technology is crossing over into the advertising sector and leading us to the future that Minority Report so brilliantly laid out for us.

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hank you.

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