Coke Uses Digital Billboards To Engage Passersby


MPG's Collaborative Alliance meetings are known for touching on enough subjects to fill a small Britannica volume. This week's event did nothing to break the mold. Topics ranged from data showing that lots of affluent Americans own used cars to Coke billboards with messages commenting on someone's outfit. 

Presenters stretched from Richard Vogt at research firm Ipsos Mendelsohn to Chris Gagen at Posterscope to Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) CEO Randall Rothenberg.

Vogt, vice president at Ipsos, presented factoids culled from the company's annual research on upscale Americans -- defined as those in households with incomes over $100,000.

A top-10 "Things You Never Knew About Affluents" had statistics showing 53% of upscale households have a used vehicle. Plus, more upscale people in the past year went backpacking and camping (9.6 million) than played tennis (5.7 million). And the more money one makes, the less time one spends watching TV, albeit slightly.



Research shows people in homes with incomes of $250,000-plus watch an average of 17.3 hours of TV a week -- below the 18 a week in homes with incomes in the $100,000 to $150,000 range. But Internet use had a slightly reverse dynamic, with the wealthier group averaging 27.4 hours a week -- higher than the 22 for the segment with lower incomes.

Another finding: 10% of affluent Americans hunted in the past year, with each doing so on average for 20 days. Using government data, that percentage appears to be above an estimated 6% for the full U.S. population 16 and older.

Ipsos' Vogt suggested to the alliance that the most surprising finding about upscale Americas is that just 11% agree with this statement: "CEOs of large companies can generally be trusted to tell the truth when they make statements about their company or industry."

The Collaborative Alliance is a periodic meeting of industry thought leaders in the fields of research, ad sales, media buying, television distribution and technology spearheaded by MPG executive Mitch Oscar.

Also speaking this week was Chris Gagen, a managing director at out-of-home agency Posterscope. Much has been made about digital billboards that allow a marketer to switch creative in real time, something Coca-Cola has made use of through a network of 28 in the U.S.

But Gagen offered a case study of how a Coke brand, Vitaminwater, used the medium to cast personal messages in the United Kingdom. With boards in train stations and a prominent locale Coke has owned for 15 years in London's famed Piccadilly Circus, employees stared down at passersby from a nearby post and typed targeted messages for them on the screen.

For instance, a person might watch a comment scroll across under the Vitaminwater logo about his or her spiffy green backpack, or soccer team jersey. The targeted messages were meant to creatively drive engagement with the boards; they did not include suggestions to "go grab a Vitaminwater for energy."

Out-of-home advertising has "not been known for a heritage in technology," Gagen said.

Interestingly, Gagen's presentation about the personalized London boards came after IAB head Rothenberg again warned Internet marketers to be highly attuned to protecting privacy in order to avoid the wrath of government regulators.

"If there's something that's going to freak out your consumers, don't do it," he said.

Rothenberg mentioned that the industry is "under fairly significant assault" in Washington and state capitals, with some of the substantive criticism regarding behavioral targeting.

"There is a legitimate concern about misuse of personally identifiable information," Rothenberg said.

He suggested perhaps 70% of interactive advertising could be regulated, based on discussions government entities at multiple levels are having. And advertisers may not appreciate the potential crackdown.

"The more we get into it," he said, "the more we see the agencies are utterly ignorant about what's going on."

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