Adverts that are tailor-made for an audience

Thursday, 28 June, 2007

An advertising/information display that can change its content to suit its audience at any particular moment has been created in Britain using interactive Bluetooth communications technology.

It is capable of identifying individual passers-by and not only tailors its presentation to suit their previous viewings "” avoiding repetition "” but also allows them to download information to their phone or PDA, for storage and access when needed. Further, by building up a profile of their known interests, it is possible to show them selected relevant material.

The prototype unit called BluScreen "” a 58 cm wide screen displaying information about upcoming seminars, lectures and events "” has been installed in the reception area of the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at the University of Southampton on the south coast of England.

The display unit detects the presence of people carrying Bluetooth-enabled devices in its vicinity, reads the unique identifying signal of their equipment and automatically begins to show them selected adverts and notices, while at the same time building a record of what they have seen to ensure that messages are not repeated.

Dr Terry Payne of the ECS said that the system works by individuals selecting the adverts of interest to them on a touch screen in the reception area, signalling if they would like more information sent to their phone, and then receiving a "business card' download with the addresses of the websites with further information that they can access in their own time.

"This could work really well in a cinema where people are relaxing and then see something that interests them and which they would like to follow up afterwards," Payne said.

If more than one person is standing in front of BluScreen, the system chooses material for display that has previously been seen by as few of the current audience as possible. This clever aspect of the technology uses software "agents' to represent different adverts in a kind of "advert auction'.

These agents have a fixed advertising budget and bid against each other, depending on the number of new exposures their advert is likely to achieve. Greater exposure results in higher bids and the agent that bids the highest wins.

"The agents are interested in showing their content to people that haven't seen it before," said Dr Alex Rogers who developed BluScreen with Terry Payne and colleague Nicholas Jennings.

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